The abrupt arrival of coronavirus changed the state of restaurants and how people access food overnight, and independent entrepreneurs who are pushing through the pandemic to prepare and deliver food are helping to feed hungry would-be diners faced with fewer options.
Andy Chetakian’s dream is to own and operate a small diner, but for the time-being she’s happy running her grilled cheese and breakfast sandwich pop-up The Blue Light Speak Cheesy from her Greenpoint apartment, “I kinda like the freedom of the pop-up,” she said.
In pandemic-free years past, Chetakian popped-up at Brooklyn coffee shops such as the now-closed Budin (114 Greenpoint Ave.), where she prepared signature grilled cheeses sandwiches like the Staycation with habanero pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses, grilled pineapple, and basil on sourdough bread during the week, and cheesy egg sandwiches for weekend brunch.
Originally from Southern California where she began experimenting grilled cheese pop-ups in the small college town Fullerton in 2014, Chetakian moved on a whim three times between Brooklyn and Los Angeles with her business and most-recently relocated to Greenpoint in January.
The Speak Cheesy had just begun popping up at The Screen Door (145 Driggs Ave.) serving breakfast sandwiches to-go near McGolrick Park when the pandemic hit and the ice cream shop temporarily closed along with countless other restaurants in New York.
“I spent three weeks locked in my room just like everyone else, and I didn’t think that working was going to be an option for me, but I had all this time to sit and think, and I got some inspiration from friends that were talking about how they have a hard time getting groceries and they want more food delivery options,” she said.
On Saturdays, Chetakian delivers grilled cheese sandwich kits in Greenpoint from the menu on the Blue Light Speak Cheesy website. Orders can be placed through Saturday, and she makes the deliveries herself to ensure proper service.
Breakfast pick-up is available at Chetakian’s Greenpoint apartment (complete with contact-less window drop) on Sundays between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Customers can order up to two sandwiches for pick-up and choose from time slots that are spaced out in 15 minute increments in order to prevent crowding.
While her brick and mortar dreams are on hold, Chetakian says that she’s fortunate to skip the stress of the current situation facing restaurant owners: “I feel soo bad for all of the restaurants that are trying to keep their spaces and continuing to pay rent,” adding that she hopes that government aid will be sufficient to help all affected businesses reopen.
“I think this might be a lot longer than I originally thought,” Chetakian said.