Irene Kicks Small Businesses While They're Down


Many U.S. small business owners up and down the East Coast just saw a wrench thrown into the already weak economy and job climate. And her name is Hurricane Irene.

Paradise Garden Restaurant, located on the water in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, was having a tough 2011 before the deadly hurricane ripped through town this past weekend. Owner Gregory Epshteyn, who has been in the business for more than two decades, said it’s been a struggle this past year to afford keeping his doors open. After lowering prices, laying off employees and taking out $150,000 in loans, Epshteyn said he worried Paradise Garden couldn’t survive another blow.

“This year I didn’t even make a penny,” Epshteyn said. “We were very lucky we were ready for the storm. I am not a fan of our Mayor, but he did a very good job announcing the hurricane a few days in advance.”

The preparations, however, didn’t stop Epshteyn from having to close his doors on Saturday and Sunday, and move a wedding banquet to Monday; all costing him close to $50,000. No major damage was suffered, he said, as he lined the restaurant with nearly 40 sandbags and boarded up the windows, only a bit of water managed to trickle in.

Epshteyn is not alone, and some other businesses along the coast might consider him lucky.

The Sanderling Resort and Spa , located in the Outer Banks in Duck, N.C., also suffered a major loss in revenue due to Irene. The popular vacation destination had to evacuate during its high season, losing at least $250,000, according to Dick McAuliffe, general manager.

The resort was forced to evacuate its more than 350 guests on Thursday morning. The establishment’s 12 buildings were all boarded up in time for the storm, however they were still hit hard, McAuliffe said.

“Thankfully the majority of the damage is all exterior, to the grounds and buildings,” he said. “There is a lot of damage to the roofing and our cedar shingles. The debris is beyond imagination, there was such a fierce from the sound side of the property.

The total cost of the damage is not yet known, McAuliffe said, but the resort was set to open Tuesday at 4 p.m. The closing will certainly put a dent in the resort's profits for the season, he said.

"We were having a strong season, and this is not helping," he said. "Any negative impact in a poor economic situation certainly hurts."

Frank Mohd, owner of Cranford's Best Bagel & Deli  in Cranford, N.J., is also feeling the pain from the Hurricane. With the downtown area of Cranford still underwater due to flooding from the Rahway River, Mohd lost power and has yet to regain it—causing his food to spoil.

"We are talking about days [without power]," Mohd said. "If that is the truth, we are losing thousands of dollars, plus all of the business we will lose. The problem is that not even ice is available, I had to drive up North just to get some ice."

Despite the power loss, Mohd said he is still lucky his shop didn’t flood. He said the majority of the water flowing through the town was absorbed by his neighbors, a bank and a hardware store, which have large basements. The bagel store does not have a basement, so no water leaked in.

"We have insurance, but I'm not sure if the policy will cover it," he said. "I wasn't expecting anything like this."