LI retailers face rough reality after Sandy

Facing a lengthy power cut and dealing with Facing a lengthy power cut and dealing with damages from superstorm Sandy, businesses such as these on Love Lane in Mattituck will be faced with an enormous challenge to recoup losses. (Oct. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Returning to business as usual likely will be difficult and costly for small independent retailers and restaurants on Long Island hit by the storm and its aftermath, experts said.

Local hardware stores, supermarkets and larger chains selling necessities are an exception. Most of these stores, having prepared for storm-related demand, opened the morning after superstorm Sandy struck.

"The issue is going to be the specialty retailer who couldn't open two, three or four days after the storm," said Marshal Cohen, retail analyst with the NPD Group, a Port Washington market research firm. "How are they going to make payroll and rent? Smaller retailers are the ones who live week to week and that's going to hurt."

Superstorm Sandy has affected larger swaths of Long Island than last year's Tropical Storm Irene. Besides wind destruction, Sandy also dealt out more extensive flooding, which has hurt businesses, said Mario Saccente, executive vice president of the Long Island chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.

Flooding is a particular problem because, he estimated, 85 to 90 percent of restaurants on Long Island don't have flood insurance or don't have the proper amount.

He is directing his members to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has disaster relief funding available to state and eligible local governments as well as other assistance, possibly including low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

The issue for most restaurants isn't just waiting for the power to come back, he said. There's also the need to clean up and replace damaged equipment and property.

"It's not as easy as last time," Saccente said, "when you were just waiting for the power to go on."

While the business of selling staples and emergency supplies is booming, it also faces issues. Closures of bridges to Long Island until noon Tuesday caused some delays of shipments of groceries, emergency supplies and cleanup materials.

A number of large retailers such as The Home Depot and Lowe's said they had positioned deliveries just outside of the storm-affected area ready to roll out as soon as the weather had cleared and roads opened. Many of these larger retailers have backup generators.

Stop & Shop had shipments made on Sunday instead of Monday.

Todd Kirschner, co-owner of Trio Hardware in Plainview, rented a truck and trailer, convinced a wholesaler to open its Ohio warehouse late Saturday night, then drove there and back to replenish his store with batteries, generators and other storm gear. Tuesday, he was waiting for more shipments to restock his store.

Michael Costello, president of local chain Costello's Ace Hardware, said he has a waiting list of customers for generators: "There's no such thing as getting enough stock."
With Ted Phillips

Disaster relief for restaurants and small businesses

Small business owners in need of help or information on how to apply for disaster relief can apply for assistance by:

1. Registering online at disasterassistance.gov.

2. Visiting sba.gov/content/applying-disaster-loan to apply for a Small Business Association loan.

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