Life Upended: Owner of tour guide business left with no income

Life Upended. The coronavirus outbreak has had a devastating impact on our nation, and it has touched Staten Islanders in countless ways. In this series, reporter Tracey Porpora will share the stories of those who have been thrust into situations that were unimaginable just a few months ago — those who have seen their life completely upended. This is the nineteenth story of “Life Upended.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Heather Pastore, 45, owner of the Castleton Corners-based Manhattan Greeterz Walking Tours, found success offering unique excursions of Manhattan skyscrapers and monuments over the last five years.

Two of her most requested tours were of Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, where she would reveal the transportation hub’s nine “secrets,” and a “9/11 downtown tour.”

In addition to her tourism company, Pastore, a Castleton Corners resident, had a successful private tutoring business for 25 years where she would give students private sessions in reading and math at their home.

But once the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shuttered the globe in March, travel to New York City became highly restricted, and schools went virtual. All tours and most of her tutoring sessions were indefinitely canceled.

“Before the pandemic hit, life was pretty good. I was tutoring students from kindergarten to 12th grade on a regular basis — Monday through Thursday — and some students twice per week. And I was booked for walking tours,” said Pastore, noting she was formerly a substitute teacher.

Heather Pastore

One of Pastore’s most requested tours was of Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, where she would reveal the transportation hub’s nine “secrets.” (Courtesy of Heather Pastore)

But like everything else, the pandemic shuttered both of her businesses in March.

Pastore soon found herself unemployed during the height of the pandemic. And because she is self-employed, she said she was rejected for unemployment.

Despite her offering virtual tutoring, most of her students opted out. Life as she knew it had stopped.

“Ever since the pandemic hit, we had to do a 360. …We were shut down without notice. …Everything had to go remote, and I stopped getting calls for tours. People have been afraid to go out,” said Pastore.

Luckily, she lives with her parents and was able to rely on them to help put food on the table. But because her parents are in the higher-risk population for contracting the disease, she was reluctant to venture out to pursue other job opportunities, said Pastore.

“My parents are my No. 1 concern,” she admitted. “I am still very careful around people.”

But this has led to a feeling of isolation. A member of the St. Teresa’s R.C. Church choir, Pastore said she still misses “in-person” contact and her daily activities prior to the onset of the pandemic.

ATTEMPT TO RAMP UP TUTORING DURING REMOTE LEARNING

However, with many students forced to take part in remote learning, Pastore has been trying to ramp up her tutoring business. By offering virtual tutoring on Zoom, she said she’s hoping she’ll recoup some of her financial losses during the continued coronavirus crisis.

“I started tutoring a few students on Zoom. Most of my students stopped in-person sessions,” she said, noting she hopes parents will opt to have tutors help kids with remote learning during the continued pandemic.

In a desperate effort to make money, Pastore has also taken over a friend’s online soap business, where she markets, through Facebook, a line of homemade, organic soaps.

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