Businesses struggling to rebuild after Sandy

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The Ragtime grocery store on Cross Bay Boulevard suffered damage, including flooding and broken electrical pannels, during Superstorm SandyTHE COURIER/PHOTO BY TERENCE CULLEN
The Ragtime grocery store on Cross Bay Boulevard suffered damage, including flooding and broken electrical pannels, during Superstorm Sandy

Local businesses already struggling in a tough economy are determined to bounce back from Sandy.

Shop owners along Cross Bay Boulevard swept dirt and debris from their stores, pumping water from drenched basements in the days after the storm.

Angelo Gurino, owner of Howard Beach landmark Ragtime, said pre-storm preparation saved his business from significant damage. Sand bags and wood panels kept waves from completely destroying the grocery store.

“We didn’t suffer that much, thank God,” said Gurino.

The store’s basement filled entirely with water, trickling several inches onto the main floor. Gurino said that even though they spent 14 days without electricity, they remained open and tried to help the community as much as possible. Almost $40,000 worth of merchandise spoiled on the shelves.

After the storm, all that was left of Ragtime’s sign were the letters “M” and “E”.

Gurino estimates the repairs will amount to $100,000.

“We need to get those businesses up and running on Cross Bay Boulevard,” said State Senator Joe Addabbo. “They employ many of our local people — they generate revenue for the city and state, and provide the services for the community. It would be in our best interest to get those businesses up and running.”

Jack Friedman, director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said members of the group have been in the areas hardest hit by the storm nearly every day. The lack of electricity has hindered the chamber from conducting through assessments of damage, stranding many businesses in the stage of relief and recovery. Friedman said the next stage is to ensure residents have proper housing and attempt to reopen businesses.

“We don’t want to be a chamber of no commerce,” said Friedman. “We have to keep it as a chamber of commerce down in the Rockaways. This is a vital area to Queens, to New York City, and it could be to the region. This is some of the most valuable beachfront property on the east coast and it’s just been ignored by the city for way too long.”

Harendra Singh, owner of the Water’s Edge Restaurant in Long Island City, said his facility was inundated by nearly six feet of water during Sandy, far more than he predicted.

“I thought maybe three feet or two feet [of water],” said Singh. “We did whatever we could to prepare for everything. We were not expecting this much.”

The restaurant is currently undergoing repairs to fix damaged carpet and flooring, construct a new bar and replace broken equipment, which Singh estimates will cost between $1.5 million and $2 million. To keep business rolling, the restaurant moved all operations to their unscathed second floor. Since the storm, Water’s Edge has hosted two weddings, both of which Singh said went “perfectly.” The restaurateur said he hopes the eatery will be back on its feet by Thanksgiving.

“We are not [only] confident,” said Singh. “We are sure that we’ll be OK.”

- Additional reporting by Terence Cullen