* "Don't have the product to sell, people to sell it"
* Recovery hurt by communication outages
* Kindness of strangers
By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK, Nov 9 After filling dumpsters with
ruined inventory, many owners of New York City's shops and
restaurants find themselves waiting on emergency loans and
insurance companies or trying to personally finance their
recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
The progress is uneven on lower Manhattan's trendy Avenue C,
which was heavily flooded during last week's historic storm.
A still unheated hardware store was doing a busy trade in
clean-up supplies and equipment but a supermarket on the next
block was still closed and in disarray a week and a half after
Sandy flooded its basement and sales floor. A bar and beer shop
across the street was open, but serving a limited menu to fewer
than usual customers.
"We don't have the product to sell and we don't have the
people to sell it to," said Zach Mack, a co-owner of the ABC
Beer Co, which flooded last week, knocking out electricity for
The massive storm whipped ashore on Oct. 29 and caused
widespread flooding in New York and New Jersey, leading up to as
much as $50 billion in economic losses. The recovery effort,
already hampered by lingering power outages and fuel shortages,
was dealt another setback this week when a Nor'easter blew
through, delivering the area's first snowfall of the season.
With telephone landlines still down, businesses here say
they are losing potential sales because they cannot accept
credit-card payments and typically insist on cash only.
Replenishment of ruined stock and equipment is moving
slowly, as many suppliers have themselves lost merchandise in
flooded warehouses and deliveries were halted when trucks either
were damaged or unable to find gas after the crippling storm.
"It's compounded by the fact that people around here are
getting their own lives back in order, so they're not into going
back out yet," Mack said, although Election Night drew a decent
crowd to his business.
Like other neighborhood business owners, Mack said he was
applying for emergency loans from the U.S. Small Business
Administration, a federal agency, and the city.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg increased to $25,000 each the
emergency loans available to small- and medium-sized businesses
affected by Sandy, and they are interest-free for the first six
months. About 1,000 businesses have inquired about the loans, a
spokeswoman for the mayor said.
On Friday morning, more than 200 business owners crowded a
neighborhood community center gymnasium to learn how to apply
for loans from the city and the SBA, which offers low-interest
loans of up to $2 million. M a ny had complaints about utility
companies and said grants rather than loans should be available.
After spending the weekend filling a dumpster with
flood-damaged merchandise, hardware store owner Monica Pedreros
said she would rather dip into her savings than take out an
emergency loan, saying she could not afford new debt.
Laura Tribuno, co-owner of a nearby Austrian-cuisine
restaurant that reopened with a scaled-down menu, said she had
applied to see if she was eligible for emergency loans but was
undecided as to whether they were worth incurring interest.
Business owners on Avenue C say they have begun to file
insurance claims but some are hamstrung by everything from phone
and Internet outages to the absence of accounting staff still
dealing with their own personal crises from the deadly storm.
For now, businesses are relying on their customers and the
generosity of others. Many business owners said vendors have
offered to give them more time to repay invoices, and that
complete strangers have arrived on their doorsteps, some already
wearing gloves, masks and boots, offering to help drain
basements and drag ruined equipment to the curb.
"They made what seemed like an insurmountable task go by a
lot faster," Mack said.