Sandy Puts Strains on Small Suburban Businesses

Nusha Balyan at The Story Exchange By Nusha Balyan at The Story Exchange

Three days after Hurricane Sandy swept the tri-state area, small businesses are struggling to get back to normal. Those business owners with electricity are finding creative ways to keep open and assist customers, but others, like those in downtown Manhattan, remain dark and closed. It’s estimated the city’s businesses will suffer billions of dollars of damages and lost sales.

The situation is not much different in the suburbs. In the town of Lynbrook, NY, about 24 miles out of Manhattan, on the south shore of Long Island, the outlook is dire. Walking down one of the main streets very few businesses remain open. Among the dark facades and ‘closed’ signs, there are a few small businesses that are open. The convenience stores, deli’s and pizzerias that have power are the only ones with customers. A couple of small nail salons and dry-cleaners also opened their doors but the only people inside are the lonely workers staring at the front door hoping for a customer to come in.

I walked in to Maximum Carpets and Flooring, a woman-owned store that displays beautiful rolled up carpets on the window. The store has been opened since Tuesday, but no customers have showed up.

“We haven’t had anything,” says Fany, who was standing by the door, watching the latest updates of the hurricane aftermath on TV. She’s worked in the store for six years and has never seen the business so slow. They are lucky to have power, but there is no phone and Internet service in the store, so even if they had an order waiting, they wouldn’t know.

For her colleague Max the electricity in the store is “just a waste.”

“I wish I could help someone with it,” he says. Only the next block over, people are home with their kids without power, and just a few miles south, houses are still swimming in water.

Max and his family live in Elmont, NY and they too have had no power for four days. He comes to work mainly to stay warm and take advantage of the electricity.

“I’m more comfortable here,” says Max, “I charge my laptop here and then charge my phone from it at home.”

Other businesses are struggling to keep up with hungry customers. In Rockville Center, the next town over, people without electricity were flooding through the restaurants’ doors, hoping for some warm food.

In a small gyro restaurant, that was heavily understaffed, the line was getting out the door. Apparently, never before having experienced such a demand, the business was overtaken by complete chaos. The two waitresses were running back and forth trying to keep up and the only answer they could give to the question “are you okay?” was “no.”

Nusha Balyan at The Story ExchangeSandy Puts Strains on Small Suburban Businesses