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He’s no longer in an Empire State of mind.
NYC native Dimitri Voutsinas left the Big Apple for Austin, Texas, in June 2021 — and has no regrets.
“I don’t miss it at all … it felt empty and just a shell of what it was,” said Voutsinas, 37, a chef who had to close his restaurant, Otaku Katsu on the Lower East Side, in October 2020. “Nobody was coming out. Nobody was ordering anymore. It was a disaster.”
Voutsinas is in good company. Some 319,020 residents fled New York state between July 2020 and July 2021, according to US Census Bureau data released last week — a 1.6% year-over-year loss that made New York the nation’s leading state for population decline. Texas, which grew by 310,288 people and doesn’t charge its residents any income tax, notched the country’s largest gain.
“I’m here for a long time,” Voutsinas said of Austin.
He and his wife recently bought a house there and have a baby on the way. And, last April, Voutsinas and another former New Yorker, Benjamin Demarchelier, 39, opened a restaurant, Show Me Pizza, in the Texas capital.
Both men are loving the more business-friendly nature of their new state, along with greater access to the outdoors for hunting, fishing and hiking.
“[Texas] wanted everything open as soon as possible, and it was the opposite sentiment in New York City,” said Demarchelier, a longtime NY restaurateur who settled in Texas in November 2020.
Like Voutsinas, Olivia Young, 35, left New York for Austin after having to shut a business. In November 2020, she closed her Box + Flow fitness studios after months of trying to keep them alive amid COVID-19. In early 2021, she relocated, and she’s enjoying a life that isn’t all business.
“We are so much more than what we do … Being out of New York City allows you to be so much more present, because you are afforded the opportunity to slow down and to connect with yourself and other people,” said Young, who’s now working as a consultant to food and fitness brands.
“My friendships are stronger, my relationships are more connected … They aren’t transactional or conditional — they’re just honest.”
Just behind Texas, Florida saw the second-biggest increase in population, swelling by 211,196 residents between July 2020 and July 2021. The Sunshine State has also remained more open than New York during the pandemic — in part by recommending, not requiring, face coverings — and it, too, has lured in business-minded folks.
Among them is 38-year-old Livio Rosado, who lived in Freeport, LI, and was a managing partner in two Beautiful People beauty salons in nearby Merrick. In January 2020, he purchased the Greenroom Salon in Boca Raton as an investment, but it ended up being a saving grace.
His Long Island employees were hesitant to come back to work following the three-month shutdown from March to June 2020. “It was just chaotic, and we couldn’t sustain both locations; we had to shut one down,” Rosado recalled. “We never reopened it.”
So, in June 2020, Rosado — along with his wife, Amarilys, 39, and their 3-year-old daughter, Camila — moved to Pompano Beach, a city about 11 miles from Boca. They grabbed a “super cheap” 2,000-square-foot rental apartment and haven’t looked back.
“I was just done,” Rosado said of Long Island, and he is no longer financially involved in the remaining Beautiful People salon. “I was bored. I was frustrated. And then you start looking at the incentives, like I got a business that’s opened up in Florida, and the one here in New York is closed.”
His salon in Boca is bustling with 14 stylists — four of whom relocated to Florida from the tri-state area — and several former Beautiful People clients who moved from Long Island. Moreover, Florida also doesn’t charge its residents any income tax.
“I gave myself a 10 percent [raise],” he said.
And although there are aspects of New York he misses, such as Broadway shows, the pros of leaving New York outweigh the cons.
“There’s more freedom to do things,” he said of Florida. “Yes, there is a pandemic — we have to take care of each other — but it wasn’t like you need to stay in your box … there’s economic flow here, people are spending money, they go places.”