OLD FORGE, Pa. — Cusumano restaurant in Old Forge is a place author Gary Rivlin spent a lot of time in when the pandemic began. He came to the area, fleeing New York City to get to an area where he felt safe.
He decided to put pen to paper and has recently published a book called "Saving Main Street." The book shares the stories of small business owners featuring a few in northeastern Pennsylvania.
"I really wanted to follow the various businesses just to see how they managed. Could they survive what they were doing to try to survive?" Rivlin said.
Rivlin approached restaurant owner Thomas Cusumano about sharing his story and the difficulties of running a restaurant during the pandemic.
"I didn't really think our story was too interesting because we were living it. But when I saw it on paper, I started to read it; I was like, maybe it is an interesting, unique sort of story. And you know, it is something to be proud of that we were able to get through it and survive it," Cusumano said.
Rivlin wanted to put a voice and a story behind the storefronts that were shuttered for some time. He talked to other business owners in our area, including Vilma's Hair Salon in Hazleton and J.R.'s Hallmark in Tunkhannock. All are businesses that were forced to find a way to make it work.
"It's the creativity of entrepreneurs and the small business operators. It was the determination of the small business operators," Rivlin said. "I feared at the start of this project that I'd be chronicling the great small business die-off as was being predicted. That didn't happen."
Cusumano says had it not been for the community, many main street businesses like his may have disappeared.
"We all felt the love of the community, which was the most important and probably best feeling. I'll never forget it. It was like it was months of it and years of it, really, and without their support, we would be nothing," Cusumano added. "We wouldn't be here."
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