When Tony Park scrambled to keep his sprawling Korean barbecue restaurant Samwon Garden on 32nd Street in business, he was constantly looking for ways to make his employees and customers feel safer. He’d throw in masks and hand sanitizer with deliveries, and he looked for equipment to retrofit his restaurant for the return of indoor dining.
But after finding it difficult to source products people have been seeking during the current crisis, Park has now opened CV19 Essential, which he says is the “first retail shop offering a variety of products and gadgets with the sole purpose to protect and serve NYC from the known to the unknown.”
The all white shop looks like a high-end showroom or a sterile laboratory, and showcases a wall of masks and face shields, portable UV lights, cell phone sterilizers, air purifiers, anti-microbial film, Plexiglass and even a thermal facial recognition device. Other restaurants, schools, hotels and banks have sourced supplies at the shop, which opened to the public on September 16th. Hours are Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm.
“There wasn't a one-stop shop,” says Park. “Everything I was looking at was overseas or had to be shipped from Korea or Taiwan. You can’t look at or touch products online.”
Originally, Park—who also owns Angelina Bakery in the nearby Garment District had plans to open a Japanese barbeuce restaurant in the space. But like other restaurateurs, those plans are on hold as he navigates a new dining landscape where fewer people are dining at restaurants. He’s turned to partnering with Goldbelly for his bakery and at Samwon, customers can order Korean barbecue kits directly from the Ktwon restuarant to be delivered anywhere across the country.
Park, who grew up in Italy and whose parents are Korean, says he turned to Asia for guidance as he figured how to operate his business during the crisis.
“Everything that Korea has been doing, that was my inspiration,” says Park, in reference to people wearing masks long before U.S. officials recommended it and the various safety precautions—including social distancing to sanitizing practices at restaurants—that have been implemented with public health in mind.
Still, it’s a challenge for Park’s businesses. He’s adds: “I pray every day.”
CV19 Essential is located at 41 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001
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