Jarvis Fernandez is still dreaming big.

As the owner of Emoji Burger in Jackson Heights, Fernandez has high hopes of expanding the kid-friendly burger joint to different parts of the neighborhood. The healthy alternative to fast food has been serving sliders that are free of antibiotics and hormones, as well as several different varieties of milkshakes and fries since 2015.

But once the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Fernandez, like many small business owners in New York City, was faced with difficult decisions.

“Where we were in Queens was like a cemetery,” said Fernandez. “We were one of the last ones open on the street, everything else was shut down.”

An employee of several years also passed away during the pandemic, Fernandez said, adding to the personal and business burdens of the past year-and-a-half.

“When you have weekly sales that cover you, as a business person, you know what’s your lower end to make ends meet,” said Fernandez. “When you’re at that point, you ask yourself, ‘Is it worth it to continue, or is it time to quit?’”

However, thanks to the Queens Small Business Grant Program, Fernandez received a $20,000 grant that helped keep his business afloat.

“I’m very grateful for the grant, there’s no words that can describe our gratitude,” Fernandez said. “It really did get us over that hump that we needed.”

Fernandez says his upcoming goals for the eatery include balancing out costs for the next few months, especially with prices of his inventory going up, from beef to bread. Nonetheless, Fernandez credits a positive mindset during the pandemic that kept local customers coming back and keeps his spirits high looking towards the future.

“We don’t know if Mr. Cohen has a million dollars and wants to put an Emoji Burger right here in the stadium, you never know,” said Fernandez.

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