Despite the fragile economy, some New York businesses are looking for new ways to bring in customers while helping them out. For a Manhattan dance studio and Brooklyn Greek restaurant, that means offering their services on a donation-only basis.
Lauren Pellettieri and Elizabeth Fielder, the founders of Liberated Movement dance company, said they wanted to provide New Yorkers with affordable dance classes open to the public. Anyone can participate in dance classes at their Tribeca studio as long as they leave a donation ($5 suggested).
The dance company, which started in March 2010, has already seen a great deal of growth as it recently finalized paperwork to become a 501(c)3. "Attendance varies, but we're growing," said communications manager and cardio jazz instructor Bridgette Catino. "The teachers are professionals who teach and perform around the city. We wanted to provide something [that is] unavailable anywhere else."
Liberated Movement classes are held in a small Tribeca studio on Broadway and range from ballet to Afro Funk and hip hop. Class sizes range from 10 to 30 students. Catino, who has been dancing since age 3, loves the high energy level in the classes. She says the program is attractive because of the variety of classes, donation-only system and because the classes are open to dancers at all levels.
This donation-only basis is present not only in Manhattan, but Santorini Grill in Brooklyn also began a one month pay-as-you-feel policy on Nov. 4, the restaurant's third anniversary.Paula Douralas is the owner and main chef of the family-run Greek restaurant.
Born in Greece, Douralas was raised in Standford, Conn., and came to New York in 1980. Much of her family still live in Greece."I've been in the United States for 45 years now," she said. Speaking of the new payment system: "It's 'pay as you feel my food is worth'...I think I have excellent food. I cook myself... it's like this is my home and everybody's my guest."
The small restaurant features an outdoor patio lined with strings of lights. Inside, an authentic Greek loom rests on a table next to a large earthen vase. The dark wooden tables and simple place settings make customers feel as though they are having dinner at home.
Regular customer Maria Meris has been coming to Santorini Grill since the restaurant opened and she's confident the pay-as-you-feel month will succeed because of the restaurant's high-quality food and friendly staff.
Whether or not the new payment approach will prove profitable, Douralas defends her choice by pointing to the widespread economic suffering. She says she wants to do what she can to help those who can't afford to spend a lot of money on food but who are seeking a friendly restaurant environment and high-quality food.
She's only planning on keeping the policy for a month, but says she'll extend it longer if it brings in sufficient money to sustain the business. "I know I need help, and I know a lot of other people need help," Douralas said. "I know a lot of my customers lost their jobs, they had to move away...maybe we can all help each other."