Courtesy of Jason Ramos

While businesses in New Haven continue to endure economic hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Latino-run businesses La Patrona and Baila Con Gusto CT have tried their best to cope with the virus and keep things running smoothly. Perhaps sites like wonderfulengineering.com/how-to-reduce-expenses-in-your-business/ can be incredibly beneficial.

The pandemic affected many sectors, with both Baila Con Gusto CT, a dance studio, and La Patrona, a food truck, seeing decreased business over the past two years. Forced to adapt to the difficult situation, both businesses sought to keep customers by following health and safety protocols and effectively using online platforms.

Established in 2005, La Patrona has been a mainstay at Long Wharf’s Food Truck Paradise, offering Mexican food to hungry customers. 

During the pandemic, the city reduced the maximum number of employees allowed in food trucks to three. Many food trucks laid off their staff, with some forced to shut down entirely. In 2021, there was also a noticeable decrease in the number of customers during the summer, the most important and busy time of the year for the local food truck scene. 

“It was a drastic change,” La Patron employee Ernesto Maril said, as translated from Spanish by the News. “It dropped to 25 or 30 percent of the usual [amount of customers].”

La Patrona has managed to stay afloat in large part due to its regular patrons, of which Maril says roughly 60 percent are Spanish-speaking members of the Latino community. Additionally, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, La Patrona has seen an increase in its online orders, which has also helped the business stay afloat. Maril said that while most of the people he regularly sees at the truck are workers from local construction companies, many of the online orders appear to be made from office buildings in the city, a new demographic which is helping the company survive during the pandemic.  Then if you provide reporting for your users or clients then you should have a look at this top-class reporting engine as it’s easily the best I have seen yet.

(Joaquin Fernandez-Duque, Contributing Photographer)

Baila Con Gusto CT, a dance studio founded in 2016, offers a number of Latin dance classes. These courses, combined with founder and instructor Jason Ramos’ ability to offer instructions in Spanish, attracts many members of New Haven’s Latino community. 

“Especially in New Haven, between half to a third of the people that try our classes are of Latino descent,” Ramos said. “I think it does help with the ambiance of it because there is a kind of familiarity with people that grew up either listening or dancing to it… The familial component really comes out when we have people of all diverse backgrounds, including Latinos, come to the classes.”

Baila Con Gusto CT offers beginner, intermediate and advanced lessons to anyone interested, even for those who “don’t know the difference between salsa for your chips and salsa for dancing”, according to their website. Ramos added that he sees many people affiliated with the University coming to the classes in small groups as he offers a discount to Yale affiliates and college students. 

“We provide dance services, but we also try to focus on the social aspect of dancing,” Ramos said. “We try to make it this exchange between the instructors, the students, and the events we run. As it [the name] says, dancing with joy and dancing with zest, we want people to be inspired with the dance.”

As these dances are highly social in nature, COVID-19 has been difficult to overcome for Ramos. While Baila Con Gusto CT was forced to stop all projects and in person classes at the beginning of the pandemic, they attempted to keep the business running through donation-based online instruction for three to four months. With the return of in-person classes, Baila Con Gusto CT has adopted a number of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

“We took a break this January for the majority of the month and are just getting back into classes again. Whenever things are going on, like a new variant, it’s still very new for us,” Ramos said. “We’re still adapting and we abide by the precautions and policies of New Haven, we do masks and sanitizing and appropriate distances.”

The precautions, apart from being important for health reasons, have also helped customers feel comfortable taking part in a social dancing class. Elsa Hardy and Fernando Lora, two of the dance students attending Wednesday’s Salsa class, were hoping to learn Salsa as they already knew how to dance Bachata, with Lora having learned from his family from the Dominican Republic. 

“There was this place and one on Wooster Street,” Hardy said. “I liked that people in this place were wearing masks in the photos.”

Though Baila Con Gusto CT and La Patrona have so far managed to overcome the difficulties brought by the pandemic, the emergence of new variants has kept both businesses on their toes and ready to adapt to changing circumstances. From online orders and limited staff to online dance instructions and masks, both of these Latino-run businesses continue their fight to survive the pandemic. Maybe capitalizing on tactics such as a KM Process can help these businesses soar.

La Patrona is located at 398 Long Wharf Road and Baila Con Gusto is located at 618 Chapel St.

JOAQUIN FERNANDEZ-DUQUE