Faces of NYCM: How the NYCM Cafe Transitioned During a Global Pandemic - NYCM Insurance Blog

Find an Agent

Home Top Ad

Responsive Ads Here

Apr 28, 2021

Faces of NYCM: How the NYCM Cafe Transitioned During a Global Pandemic

When March of 2020 brought a wave of changes to the way we operate in both our personal and professional lives, the NYCM Cafe Team didn’t miss a beat. With much of the world on pause during the early stages of the pandemic, the team came together to continue serving NYCM employees in a safe way. Continue reading to learn more about the NYCM Cafe Team and their amazing efforts to spread not only resources, but also smiles during an unprecedented time.


Our First Pop-Up Market

“When it first happened, we had to send people home almost instantly,” recalled NYCM Cafe Supervisor, Laurie Smith. “Business slowed down for us and no one really knew what was going to happen. Supplies were limited, but we knew we needed to do something.” With a little brainstorming and a lot of teamwork, the first ever NYCM Pop-Up Market was born. Laurie credited MaryEllen Kelly, a Cafe Service Worker  as the catalyst for the idea. “MaryEllen’s ideas, in combination with our team’s determination, is what has made this all possible.”


Knowing that it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, for local families to get food and supplies from their local grocery stores, MaryEllen quickly came up with a plan. The Cafe Team jumped into gear and started calling their corporate suppliers. They ordered large quantities of items like bread, eggs, meat, toilet paper, and anything that they knew was going to be hard to find in stores. They put together a menu of food and supply options that would be available at wholesale price. When most of Team NYCM went virtual on March 13th, 2020, the first pop-up market was held just six days later on March 19th. One important aspect of the pop-up market was that the Cafe has never profited from it, as everything is sold at cost. “We just wanted to make sure our folks were being taken care of.”


Laurie goes on to say that the intention behind creating this pop-up-market was always to make sure their NYCM community was taken care of. “Sure, at first we were a little worried.  Not only were there supply shortages nationwide, but early on in the process we lost one of the main suppliers.”  While losing one of the main suppliers meant that they were going to be able to get cheaper deals on leftover inventory in the short term, it also meant they would either need to find a replacement or risk not having enough to go around. In the end, losing that supplier meant going from several pop-up markets a week down to one. Still the team persevered and eventually, as cases in our county lowered, they were able to increase in-person staffing. This increase in staff allowed for a little more variety in what the Cafe was able to offer. For example, shortly after the increase, soups and family meals, prepared directly by the Café staff, were added to the pop-up market menus.


Innovation on Campus 

In order to follow CDC safety guidelines, the team needed to come up with a simple, easy way to distribute supplies to their customers without coming into close contact. From this, the now-popular NYCM Drive Thru emerged. Easy, quick and clever - the team sprung into action and served directly to NYCM employees from the window pictured above within the cafe.


For months, supplies were limited. Menus were created around what could be found. Laurie shares that those who showed up to the pop-up markets were always grateful. In true NYCM employee fashion, grateful and appreciative were the common theme, never trying to buy them out or take too many low-stock products. Truth be told, many were  happy just to get out of the house and to see another face even if it was covered by a mask. “We have regulars now that come through each week. We’ve created a bond that I don’t know we would have had otherwise. We get to see friends we don’t normally get to see. Some bring their kids along, and some bring their puppies, which we always have treats for of course!” says Laurie.


Spreading Cheer Along The Way

Over the past year, the Cafe Team has made it their mission to make the NYCM community smile. Anytime there is an opportunity to do a socially-distanced event or themed meal, they jump on it!  For example, the Halloween Trick-or-Treat Drive-Thru event was a massive hit! Families came through by car, dressed in full costume to trick or treat their way through the line! Many even had masks built into their costumes!


The drive-thru has been utilized for many holidays, from Beach Day to the Thanksgiving Pop-Up Market, to Christmas cookie pick-up. There was even a Smores Kit available during the Fourth of July. “We set out to do anything we could to make their days a little brighter, or to make someone smile.”


Looking Forward

When asked about future plans for the Cafe, Laurie shared that they have learned to go with the flow and plan around change as covid cases continue to rise and fall in our areas. “My team is ready. If we were asked to come in tomorrow and resume under normal circumstances, we’d be ready!” Laurie shared cheerfully.


Over the course of the last year, the Cafe Team has grown closer than ever. “We’ve created a bond that cannot be broken. We’ve gotten to know each other in ways I don’t know that we would have under normal circumstances. It will never cease to amaze me just how quickly we were all able to shift gears, get down to business, and make it happen,” says Laurie, “It speaks volumes to the growth and reliance of our team.”