2011-09-01 / News

Island businesses take precautions before the storm

BY JEFF MCDONOUGH
AND TIM RIEL


Many business owners at East Ferry boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. “Save the Beads” was lettered on the plywood at the Purple Door Bead Shop. 
PHOTO BY JEFF MCDONOUGH Many business owners at East Ferry boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. “Save the Beads” was lettered on the plywood at the Purple Door Bead Shop. PHOTO BY JEFF MCDONOUGH Irene impacted many island businesses both before and after the hurricane struck Sunday. Just as Jamestown Hardware owner Scott Sherman said his store was flourishing in the days leading up to the storm, Narragansett Café owner John Recca said that his business “was booming” during it.

Late last week Jamestown Hardware had “record days” as people prepared for the storm, Sherman said. People were purchasing propane, flashlights, batteries, duct tape, plywood to board up windows and other supplies. Sherman added that the store sold out of many items.

After the storm passed through, Jamestown Hardware opened its doors on Sunday evening from about 7 to 10 p.m. It was also one of the few island businesses that opened Monday morning even though the island had no power. Sherman’s son went to the True Value warehouse in New Hampshire and brought back generators, flashlights and batteries. In all, they sold nine generators, Sherman said.

Sherman recognized that the storm was “unfortunate for many people” but was a welcome plus to his business. He said the uptick in business almost made up for the sales the store lost at the beginning of summer when the downtown sidewalks were being replaced.

Most of the businesses at East Ferry were evacuated and valuables removed. The waterfront stores are built on pilings and sit exposed to the water, waves and wind.

Frank LaPere of Grapes & Gourmet said that he spent Friday and Saturday emptying out his basement and much of the first floor. LaPere said that the previous owner of the property told him that there was a foot of water in the store during Hurricane Bob 20 years ago. So he removed all of the stock out of the basement and the first couple feet of inventory on the first floor. LaPere also had the windows on the store covered with plywood.

Ginny Prichett, co-owner of Island Realty at East Ferry, said her staff removed all computers, telephones, paper files and other valuables from the business before the storm. Gloria Kurz of Mansions and Manors at East Ferry also evacuated her business prior to the storm.

Chuck Masso of Chopmist Charlie’s said they were able to reopen on Monday evening when the island’s power came back on. He said they didn’t lose much stock and where able to pack much of the frozen goods with ice. Masso said he brought his catering trailer to the restaurant and used its freezers and refrigerators to keep the perishables safe.

Before National Grid restored power to the island around 4 p.m. Monday, the Narragansett Café was one of the island’s few thriving businesses thanks to a generator. Recca was able to open late Sunday after the storm blew through, and he was also in full operation all day Monday. “Business was booming,” Recca said.

McQuade’s Marketplace was another business that braved out the storm with the help from a generator. “We brought in a diesel powered generator and were able to stay open all day Sunday and Monday,” said McQuade’s employee John Williamson.

Williamson said that he was most surprised by the number of customers on both mornings lined up for hot coffee. “I guess everyone needs their coffee,” Williamson joked. “We were able to accommodate most everyone’s needs, even for the hot coffee.”

He added that the essentials were water, ice and bread. “We did very well,” said Williamson about having the vital items in stock. “We had periods where our bread shelves were emptied, but we restocked to make sure everyone was accommodated.”

While the island’s four boat yards were all busy in the calm before the storm taking vessels out of the water, Conanicut Marina was faced with an unusual circumstance on Sunday morning when an employee had to swim out to a Hinckley yacht that had broken free from its mooring. They then hooked up the boat to a truck on a cement pier and pulled the vessel from the beach, all the while fighting torrential rains and 60 mph wind gusts.

With all the precautions made by owners and workers, the wake of the storm brought just as much work. LaPere was busy on Monday and Tuesday restocking Grapes & Gourment, while the staff at Island Realty was busy putting the business back together earlier this week, said Prichett.

At Mansions and Manors, the first couple days of the week were spent installing computers and getting ready to conduct business as normal, Kurz said.

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