Owner works to rebuild 3 storm-hit eateries

Amy Breidenbach, the owner of he Seaford restaurants

Amy Breidenbach, the owner of he Seaford restaurants -- Catfish Max, Crabby Amy's Clam and Oyster Bar, and the Jackson Roadhouse -- is trying to rebuild after superstorm Sandy. This is Catfish Max, which was heavily damaged in the late October storm. (Dec. 20 2012) (Credit: Johnny Milano)

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Many business owners took a hit from superstorm Sandy.

Amy Breidenbach took three.

The owner of Catfish Max, Crabby Amy's Clam & Oyster Bar and Jackson Road House saw all three Seaford eateries significantly damaged.

She didn't realize the full extent of the destruction until she drove around for days afterward hunting for furniture and contents from her two waterside restaurants -- Catfish Max and Crabby Amy's -- that had been tossed out by the force of the storm.

"All my stuff was all over the street," says Breidenbach, 47, a Seaford resident. "When the windows busted and the water came in, it took everything out with it."

She estimates the total damage in excess of $500,000.

Only one of her restaurants, Jackson Road House, is open. Located about a mile from the water, it was flooded but has been repaired, she said, but business is down because so many customers were displaced by the storm.

Breidenbach doesn't know how much insurance money she'll get, and has already dipped into her savings to keep Jackson going, but she said she's determined to reopen the other two eateries.

HIDDEN OPPORTUNITIES

Juggling multiple rebuilds can be a tall order, but it also can present some hidden opportunities, say experts.

"It provides the challenge and opportunity of coming back even stronger and better than before," explains Jerry Siegel, president of JASB Management Inc., a Syosset-based business management training and development firm.

As she rebuilds, Breidenbach can ask customers for suggestions on what they'd like to see to improve their dining experience, Siegel says.

Catfish Max needs to be leveled and completely rebuilt, while Crabby Amy's, a walk-up eatery only open seasonally, needs to be gutted and repaired.

This devastation gives Breidenbach a chance to build smarter, taking into account added precautions in case of future storms, Siegel says, noting she should create a rebuilding plan for each eatery.

Breidenbach says she's working on designs now. Among her insurance claims, she has filed an Increased Cost of Compliance claim, under which flood insurance policyholders in high-risk areas can get up to $30,000 to help pay the costs to bring their businesses into compliance with their community's floodplain ordinance.

To qualify, she needed a letter from the Town of Hempstead deeming Catfish Max substantially damaged, which the town issued, according to Rebecca Furst, a certified floodplain manager for the town. Breidenbach owns the Catfish Max location and rents the other two.

If she receives the funds, she would have to implement certain flood prevention measures such as installing hurricane shutters, flood doors and elevating the structure. But she's committed to the effort, Breidenbach says, noting her roots run deep in Seaford.

HOPING FOR MAY RETURN

Her mother, Maureen, and late father, James, a retired fire captain, opened Cap's Restaurant in 1984 at the location that's now Catfish Max on Naomi Street. Breidenbach had opened Catfish Max at a nearby location in 2001 but relocated it to Cap's almost three years later after her father died and she purchased the restaurant from her mother. She opened Crabby Amy's in 1999 at Treasure Island Marina and bought Jackson Road House a mile away in 2008.

Jackson was a meeting place for neighbors after Sandy, serving hot meals soon after the storm. "Everybody was here," says Stephen Gorrono, a longtime Seaford resident. "It was the only place they could come and have some sense of normalcy."

For now, Breidenbach has managed to keep on eight employees, and hopes her eateries will be rebuilt and operational by Memorial Day.

While she's gotten a $30,000 advance from her business flood insurance on Catfish, she does not expect insurance to cover the full cost of rebuilding and says she will seek SBA loans or other financing.

"I've been here basically my whole life," she says. "Not rebuilding isn't an option."

At a glance

Company: Catfish Max, Crabby Amy's Clam & Oyster Bar, and Jackson Road House in Seaford

Owner: Amy Breidenbach

Employees: About 30 (temporarily down to eight)

Revenues: $600,000 plus, before Sandy.

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