Businesses try to recoup after Irene

Cleanup begins in the lobby of the Allegria Cleanup begins in the lobby of the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach. (Aug. 29, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Jenny Saatchi and family members spent Monday cleaning bracelets and other items at their flooded store, Saatchi Jewelry on Austin Boulevard in Island Park.

As her husband vacuumed water off the floor, Saatchi dried bracelets by gently rolling them in paper towels. Her mother-in-law placed damaged watch boxes on top of the counters for disposal.

Tropical Storm Irene has cost the 27-year-old family business at least two days of sales. The owners hope to reopen Tuesday. "We suffered losses, but it could have been worse," Saatchi said.

As a Long Island business disrupted by Irene, they had plenty of company. About 10 percent of the Long Island Power Authority's 1.12 million customers are commercial, so the one-third of the authority's customers who were without power Monday probably included about 30,000 businesses.

One of the biggest was the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station, said Les Morris, a spokesman for its owner, the Simon Property Group Inc. of Indianapolis. Mall management said later in the day that it planned to open Tuesday at 10 a.m. An unknown number of others like Saatchi's had power, but were flooded.

Retailing consultant Howard Davidowitz of Howard Davidowitz & Associates Inc. of Manhattan said that, while some businesses benefitted by selling batteries, food, bottled water and other supplies before the storm, and cleanup supplies afterward, others selling discretionary items such as clothing might find prospective customers short of cash from unexpected storm-related expenses. "The consumer is operating on a very limited budget because of the tremendous unemployment and underemployment," Davidowitz said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

At Mystic Dreams gifts in Sayville, owner Lydia Vazquez said that the only physical damage her business suffered was a wet carpet by the front door but she lost several thousand dollars in revenue because she closed at 3 p.m. Saturday -- five or six hours earlier than usual -- and stayed closed Sunday. She said she'll hold sales and mystic healing classes to make up for it. "I kind of refuse to go under," she said.

At Bay Shore's Nicky's on the Bay, where boaters dock and dine, there was some power but not for the walk-in freezer or the gas pumps for boaters. The bar televisions had power but no cable. Lunch was being served, but owner Nicholas Parini said he spent $5,000 to prepare for Irene, including renting a cargo container that served as storage and a protective barrier. The place was closed Saturday and Sunday. "I lost $40,000 in sales," he said. "You can't make that up."

The upscale Allegria Hotel in Long Beach planned to host a wedding Monday night that was postponed from Sunday because of the storm. Employees were cleaning the lobby Monday after 26 inches of water were pumped out Sunday evening. "We're open for business," said general manager Kevin Cottet.

Economist Pearl Kamer of the Long Island Association, a business group, says the economic effects of the storm are overwhelmingly negative. "Even with federal aid and insurance, this is going to be a very costly storm for Long Island at a time when its economy is teetering on the brink," she said.

You also may be interested in: