Bouncing Back After Sandy

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:04

Clinton Hall

90 Washington Street (corner of Rector Street)

Abraham Merchant's eponymous cafe at the corner of Washington and Rector Streets was completely destroyed by Sandy. But Merchant, undeterred, decided to open a brand new beer garden in his old space to replace the business the storm took away. Clinton Hall now serves craft beer and German food, as the only beer garden in the neighborhood.

"Coming back after Hurricane Sandy's devastation for us was neither a choice nor a question. The only question was how soon could we come back," said Merchant. He credits his ability to come back with the community's continued support.

"We wanted a place for neighbors to gather and regain a sense of normalcy. We wanted to help our neighbors, even though it turned out that they helped us much more than we could have ever helped them," he said. "The community supported local businesses and made an extraordinary effort to come visit our establishments. Even during the times that we did not have heat, our guests continued to come in."

Salty Paw

38 Peck Slip

This "pet emporium and groom spa" was ruined by floodwaters but has returned to its former space.

"I am thrilled that The Salty Paw is back home and open again, after almost a year, at 38 Peck Slip, but its bitter sweet," said owner Amanda Byron, "Until ALL my colleagues are back open, I am not 100 percent satisfied. Plus we still have an uphill battle to get some city funding our way."

Byron said that she and other small businesses affected by the storm still need significant support, both in terms of customers and in help from the city.

"I have to think about what's next for my shop, and how I can bring it back to the business pre-Sandy, considering all we have lost and all we have been through," she said. "Grants and small interest loans could help me navigate these waters over the next two years as I rebuild business."

The Paris Cafe

119 South Street

Peter O'Connell remembers all too clearly what it was like to have 11 feet of seawater come crashing through his tavern's front door. "The seawater permeates and corrodes everything, and a residual of this is the presence of mold and the danger of it spreading throughout the building," he said.

Because of the damage and the danger, he was forced to get rid of many fixtures and furniture, and had to replace flooring, windows and doors.

"Our antique bar imported from Holland in 1873 was damaged and had to be painstakingly restored," O'Connell said. They also had to install new plumbing and electrical systems, replace bathrooms and stairs, and refurbish the basement.

O'Connell said that they received a $10,000 grant from Small Business Solutions, but that they also had to rely on loans and credit extended by the contractors who did the repair work.

"I must mention our wonderful support from the local community and patrons," O'Connell said. "It's a joy to be back and serving."


24 Peck Slip

SUteiShi was destroyed by 6 feet of flood water, and it took almost a full year of work before it could reopen this October 18.

President Victor Chan said that the restaurant stayed afloat during the past year through a combination of creative efforts and support.

"We overcame by getting a commissary to continue our delivery services, raising $50,000 pre-selling meals on, and having a culture of caring [that enabled] the core SUteiShi team to help the reopening process become much easier."

Chan also credits his wife and two children for understanding when the family had to cut back on expenses and vacations. One positive outcome was the perspective he gained, Chan said.

"All is not that bad when we have each other and our health," he said. "It has been the hardest challenge I have to overcome in my life. I now truly understand the power of perseverance."

Keg No. 229

229 Front Street

After staying closed for almost a year, the owners of Keg No. 229 just reopened their newly renovated restaurant, as well as their sister location next store, wine bar Bin No. 220.

"The decision to come back was easy," said co-owner Calli Lerner. "We had to see if it was financially feasible. The biggest challenge was getting the key from the landlord, which took until July, and then we had to deal with Landmarks and Department of Buildings."

Lerner said that the biggest hurdle now that they've reopened is spreading the word.

"It's scary that nobody knows the block is reopened. It would be nice if everyone reopened," she said. "We'd like to see more people, it's a little quiet. But we love the neighborhood and always knew we'd be back. We have faith."

Pasanella and Son

115 South Street

Marco Pasanella was one of the relatively lucky ones - he was able to get his wine shop back up and running in a short period of time after the storm.

"We completely re-built and re-stocked our store in three weeks after the storm," Pasanella said. "But that wasn't the hard part: re-building our store was much quicker than re-building the whole neighborhood, which has taken up to now. And you can't have a viable neighborhood store with no one in your neighborhood!"