How Harvard Square Businesses Survived: Hang On And Be Nimble.

Manny Ramirez, co-owner of “Black Sheep Bagels” in Harvard Square, works in his second shop “Black Sheep Market” in Cambridgeport. Ramirez was able to open the new store during the pandemic. (Meredith Nierman/GBH News)

When COVID-19 shutdowns began last year, college students were sent home and tourists largely vanished. A place like Harvard Square depends on both, so it wasn’t surprising that local businesses owners were nervous. But more than a year later, out of 291 pre-pandemic businesses, roughly 85% managed to stay open, according to the Harvard Square Business Association

The “overwhelming majority” of landlords were willing to negotiate rents, said Denise Jillson, the association’s executive director. And the majority of businesses in Harvard Square are locally owned, so they were able to stay “nimble and flexible, and they were creative,” she added.

When shutdowns began, Manny Ramirez, co-owner of “Black Sheep Bagels,” changed his business to a slimmed down “grab and go” menu.

“We decided to hunker down and stay open and try to navigate through COVID, [and] keep our staff entirely, which we successfully did,” he said. “ And the first two months were pretty crazy, pretty chaotic, and you know, it balanced through.”

Read the rest of the story at GBH’s website.