Some businesses fortunate, some not
The experience of Jamestown businesses during this week’s storm had a lot to do with location, and even more to do with luck. Preparedness was an important factor as well. While some businesses skated through the storm nearly unscathed, others suffered substantial losses.
It stands to reason that the largest losses would be suffered by food-based businesses, and in some instances that was the case. At Chopmist Charlie’s, owner Chuck Masso estimates that he lost somewhere from $8,000 to $10,000 worth of food as a result of the power outage.
“There wasn’t much we could do because we don’t have a generator system,” Masso said. “We ended up closing on Monday and Tuesday. We came in this morning and pitched everything in the refrigerators, freezers and coolers. Now we’re in the process of prepping fresh food and waiting for deliveries to come in.”
Power went out in the village mid-afternoon on Monday, while other parts of the island had power back sooner, it was not restored downtown until late Tuesday night.
John Recca, owner of Jamestown Fish and the Narragansett Café, was able to secure generators for both locations in advance of the storm. At Fish, the generator powered the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerator. All the food from his two restaurants was moved there before the storm. As a result, there was no loss.
Recca said that the patio furniture was removed from the outdoor area of Fish, as were the televisions and other electronics from the outdoor bar area.
“I didn’t think it was a case of boarding up windows, although hindsight says maybe I should have, even though nothing happened,” Recca said.
Fish is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays regularly, and Recca was hoping that the restaurant would be back in operation the rest of the week.
Things were different at the ’Ganny, where Recca got a generator to power the entire restaurant. When it was turned on late Monday afternoon, the cafe became a gathering place for a community that had few other options. According to Recca, the Narragansett Café was packed on both Monday and Tuesday nights as people came in to have something to eat, and to simply get out of the house after being stuck inside during the storm.
“We were packed both nights,” Recca said. “We sold an awful lot of food.”
The ’Ganny wasn’t the only island business to be positively impacted during Sandy. In fact, Jamestown Hardware did a lot of business in the days leading up to the storm. According to owner Steve Sherman, the store’s biggest sellers were D batteries, propane and anything that could be used to create light as people anticipated the outage.
Generators were also a hot commodity. On Saturday, Sherman drove to True Value’s warehouse in New Hampshire to pick up additional supplies. He returned with 12 generators, and there were people waiting for them as the truck pulled up in front of the store. All of the generators were sold immediately. Another trip was made on Tuesday, and more generators were brought back. All but one was sold.
“If anything it helped business tremendously, and it was definitely much needed,” Sherman said.
More fortunate businesses were the ones located on Southwest Avenue. McQuade’s manager Maurice Browning prepared for the storm by bringing in sufficient generator power to keep the entire store open. He started running the generator on Sunday night.
“We were up running through the whole thing,” Browning said. “Even though there were glitches in this area, we never lost it for a long time. I continued using the generator and we ran it all the way up until Tuesday night.”
Browning ordered extra pallets of bottled water in anticipation of the demand, and sold most of it. Ice ran out late Sunday afternoon. There was supposed to be an additional ice delivery on Monday, but the storm prevented the drop off. Other items in demand included bread and milk, Rhode Island staples during storms.
The store was expecting a stock delivery on Tuesday, but the distributor decided not to send trucks into Rhode Island in the storm’s aftermath. However, at this point, McQuade’s is fully stocked and ready for business.
Jamestown Wine & Liquors was extremely fortunate, according to owner Varsha Patel. The power outage there only lasted for 20 minutes, although there were many instances of flickering lights Monday. As a result, the store’s two freezers were able to stay cold and none of the food in them was lost. The beer stayed cold, too. The store closed late Monday afternoon because of the storm, but reopened on Tuesday.
“We were very fortunate actually, and thanks to God for that,” said Patel. “We feel very bad about what’s happening in the town.”
Not quite so fortunate was Grapes & Gourmet, where the extended village power outage as well as basement flooding negatively affected the business. According to Paula LaBarre, the store was busy in the days leading up to the storm, with people stocking up on beverages, as well as gourmet cheese.
Based on lessons learned from tropical storm Irene last year, La- Barre said that wine and beer that is kept in the store’s basement was raised 3 feet off the floor in preparation for this week’s storm. What wasn’t anticipated was that a hatch outside the store, which leads to a crawlspace, would be forced open by the incoming tide during the storm surge.
The store’s basement was inundated, but all of the beer and wine was salvaged. The Jamestown Fire Department was on the scene Tuesday to pump out the basement. The store was closed on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday all that was left was to remove the seaweed and other debris that had found its way into the basement during the storm.
Baker’s Pharmacy was busy on Saturday and Sunday as people came in to make sure that they had sufficient supplies of their prescription medicines. Batteries were also in high demand in advance of the storm.
The pharmacy was officially closed Monday during the storm, but according to Pam Shepard, Tim Baker and his son Ryan came in to fill emergency prescriptions for people. Generator power allowed the store to be fully open on Tuesday.