The coronavirus pandemic a year later — Franklin Square

By Seth Noboa

This is the first of a four-part series looking at how Nassau County communities have dealt with the many challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been more than a year since the Covid-19 pandemic swept across Long Island. In Franklin Square, a pair of essential businesses have been helping the community through the turmoil in different ways.

“Our role is just providing the best service, and personal services, that we can give to everybody,” said Grant Derwin, manager of Franklin Square Pharmacy. “That’s what makes us stand out from everybody else.”

Located on Hempstead Turnpike, the pharmacy has been in business since 1990, and has thrived as a homegrown small business. When the pandemic began, Derwin had to develop creative ways to keep serving customers.

“We offered curbside service and free delivery,” Derwin said. “It was hard at first, because everybody was afraid to come outside. But we moved our business around and listened to what people had to say and what they were asking for. To change our business around, we kind of bent over backwards for everybody.”

About a mile to the south on Franklin Avenue is Garden World, a full-service garden center that was first established in 1949, with another location in Flushing, Queens. At first glance, given the name, the spring would seem like its prime season, but the work is practically year-round.

 Garden World was considered an essential business from the start because it sells propane, necessary for heating and cooking.

“Our busiest time, in-season, is probably from April to about the Fourth of July,” said Craig Bender, who has been the nursery manager at the Franklin Square location for the last four years.

In addition to selling plants, shrubs, and garden supplies throughout the year, Garden World plays a role in the community as well, with an Easter egg hunt for children on Easter weekend, and a tree lighting and pictures with Santa Claus during Christmas time.

When the pandemic began, Garden World was declared essential because it is a propane-filling station, helping consumers with cooking and heating. And the center used that time as an opportunity to assist the community any way that it could.

“Once everybody was home, and they didn’t have anything to do, they started to come to us because we started to have plants, and everybody was doing vegetable gardens,” Bender said. “We also offered curbside pickup, so you could order over the phone, and we would bring it out to you.”

As the calendar moves further away from March 2020, both businesses have seen a positive change from when the pandemic started.

“Once everything closed and no one knew what was going on, it was tough for a little while,” Bender said. “But then once people knew that they could venture out as long as they had their face covering and they kept social distancing, then it was safe enough for them to be able to come out, and business took off.”

“People were afraid to go out, and people were afraid to come in,” Derwin said. “Now you see more foot traffic because people aren’t as afraid as they used to be. People know more about what’s going on in the world than they used to at first, when this all first came about onto us.”

But what has been most prominent is the sense of community that both businesses have exhibited, not just during the pandemic, but throughout their time in Franklin Square.

“As far as for the community, everybody was home, and nobody really had anywhere to go, or anything to do,” Bender said, “and even if they wanted to just do a vegetable garden, or plant some vegetables in pots, we were able to assist them and make sure that they were successful in their endeavors.”

Added Derwin, “Everyone was putting in extra hours. Everyone was working twice as hard. And that’s what makes us such a good, family-oriented place, because everybody in here, that works here, has stepped up to the plate, together as one.”