When Russ & Daughters, the renowned 107-year-old food counter business, opened an 18,000 square-foot shipping facility and factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard three years ago, Josh Russ Tupper, one of the owners, was nervous.
“Should we do this? Is this too big? Is it too fast? Is it too much money?” he recalled of his fretting at the time. The business decision ended up being a prescient one, with the coronavirus overwhelming the city in 2020 and online orders surging. “Without the Navy Yard, it would have looked pretty dire,” Mr. Russ Tupper said.
During the height of the pandemic, two of the four Russ & Daughters locations were temporarily shuttered, and half of the staff was laid off. The Houston Street store, which remained open, served two customers at a time, and the Navy Yard helped facilitate up to 750 shipments a day to customers, Mr. Russ Tupper said.
He and his co-owner, Niki Russ Federman, who are first cousins, hope to reopen all of the locations fully at some point and are in the process of rehiring staff.
“It’s still challenging, but we’re not going anywhere, thankfully,” said Mr. Russ Tupper, 46, who lives with his wife, Denise Porcaro Tupper, 41, a flower shop owner, and their dogs, Sonny and Piper, in Jackson Heights, Queens.
MAGIC GARDEN We’ll get up and have coffee on our roof deck that my wife, who is a florist, turned into a magic garden, basically with a bunch of flowering trees and flowers, and a couch that we sit on and enjoy the sun with the dogs.
Sonny, our large dog who is 80 pounds, definitely needs a walk. And Piper, our small dog who is 2.5 pounds, likes to get carried around. She doesn’t walk too much. She’s an old lady, a 13-year-old Chihuahua that goes for a carry.
KEEP IT LOCAL We usually go for a walk and often go to 37th Avenue to a cheese shop, Stand Alone Cheese, that we really like and stock up on a cheese or two and some butter.
We’ll spin around and walk through the Jackson Heights Greenmarket, which we love. It’s three blocks from our house, and our typical get is apples, my favorite granola from one of the stands, some vegetables for our meals for the week and some fresh fish from the fish guy.
BREAKFAST We head back to the house for breakfast and usually cook fried eggs, toast from our gluten-free spot upstate and bacon. If it’s nice out we’ll go up to the roof or just eat in the kitchen if it’s too hot, too cold or a little rainy. And then after breakfast I will head into work.
BROOKLYN BOUND My first stop is the Navy Yard. Sundays prepandemic were certainly one of the busiest days of the week, with the crowds coming in person. Now it’s a little bit shifted because a lot of our business is during the week in shipping.
BITE, CHAT I look at the bagels to see how they are that day because bagels are a finicky thing and they’re always different. Maybe have a bite of one. Maybe have a chat with our director of ops about what’s on his agenda, if he needs any help from me and then sit down at my computer for a bit to look at emails that never stop coming.
THE CAFE I drive from the Navy Yard to the city and park in a municipal lot and then head over to the cafe on the Lower East Side usually first. It’s getting busier there. Now we have outdoor seating. Then I will go up to the store, which is in the same neighborhood, and check in with them. That again is coming back to more of an in-person experience where I’ll interact with customers, maybe stand outside if there’s a big line and chat with some people, make sure everyone’s feeling OK.
REGULARS We’ve been open the whole time, so we’ve had some regulars that used Russ & Daughters as their guiding light in this pandemic: coming in weekly, getting their order, some semblance of normalcy as well as good food to soothe the soul. More and more people that haven’t been around are coming back, which is really nice to see. We’re still limiting the people in the store to five at a time, just because we don’t want the crowds, no matter what the rules are.
FLOWERS AND A KISS After I have a little lunch at the store, my wife has her flower shop, which is called Flower Girl, on Eldridge Street around the corner. I’ll pop in there to say hello to her and the dogs, which she usually has with her. A little check-in, smell some flowers, get a kiss and then I move on to pick up Michael, my friend on the basketball courts.
MEZCAL MIXER We usually go and grab a drink in the afternoon, maybe Lucien, and sit outside. It’s always sort of a gathering of friends and people. Usually drinking mezcal on the rocks. After a little while I head back to Queens to potentially do some gardening, depending on the time, or settle in and get ready for dinner.
DINNER OUT WITH THE DOGS The Queensboro, they have a great outdoor seating area, which is really nice. We bring the dogs with us. All the staff know the dogs and give out big dog treats. It’s one of my favorite spots.
ZOOM SOCIAL We come back to the house and if it’s a Codenames night, we play it on Zoom. It’s a word game that we figured out how to play electronically, which was nice during the heart of the pandemic when we weren’t seeing anyone. It’s usually three or four couples playing, talking trash and having a nice evening with a drink.
BEDTIME Our old Chihuahua has a whole nighttime routine, so she gets medicine, we brush her teeth and go to bed. That’s the end of the evening. We’re in bed at 10 o’clock.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Josh Russ Tupper on Twitter @JRussDaughters or on Instagram @jrtup.
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