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Local businesses fighting to stand out among chains, franchises amid the pandemic

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    MERIDEN, CT (WFSB) — More local businesses are fighting to survive during the pandemic, saying the virus isn’t the only challenged.

A mom and pop shop in Meriden is trying to stand out among some big-name chains.

Customers are going to familiar chains, but many locally owned businesses say they’d like to see the money go into their own community.

“We wanted to open our culture and our food to more people here in Meriden and try our luck,” said Abel Romero.

Abel Romero and his wife Karen wanted to bring the taste of their small town in Puebla, Mexico to East Main Street in Meriden.

Last year, they opened a bakery and deli called Un Nuevo Amanecer, which translates to New Morning.

“We have empanadas, we have many different types of food,” Romero said.

Abel and Karen spend the day working on all of their homemade, family recipes.

The pandemic shut them down in March and they reopened in May with the new socially distanced rules in place with plastic dividers and outdoor seating.

“It was hard at first because we were new and not a lot of people knew about us, but little by little more people came, and more people are getting to know what our restaurant really is,” Romero said.

For anyone driving on East Main Street, hungry customers have about a dozen fast food options.

The bakery has even tried competing on the same price level.

“The pressure is quite significant on the small independent,” said Brian Marks.

Brian Marks teaches economics at the University of New Haven. He says the fight this bakery is having to stand out among the chains is happening all over.

“Why do chains and franchises work? It’s because people are used to a certain customer service, they’re used to a certain menu,” Marks said.

The family business and others Channel 3 spoke with over the last several months recognize this is going to be an uphill battle, but for this Meriden couple, they’re not giving up on their American dream.

“The virus and all the changes made us work harder and not give up because we wanted our cuisine and culture to be shared and people to come and get to know how it really is to have true authentic Mexican food,” Romero said.

Marks went on to say that looking ahead, especially toward the winter, if we see a second wave, if indoor dining restrictions continue, it’s all going to take a toll on the entire industry locally and nationally.

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