Normally, the staff of Madelaine Chocolate makes Valentine’s Day sweet for countless couples.
But this year, because of Sandy, their holiday was sweetened thanks to National Grid.
The gas company presented owners at Madelaine with a check for $250,000 on Tuesday, February 12 to help the confectioners continue their recovery. The money will go toward getting at least one leg of the Madelaine factory producing chocolate again, said co-owner Jorge Farber, and the staff back to work for Halloween candy.
“It’s a beginning for a long, long road that is ahead of us,” Farber said. “This grant from National Grid is the first substantial outside grant and resources we have received. It’s a very concrete first step because it helps us rebuild one of our 14 molding lines that produce chocolate.”
This is the first of several grants National Grid will give to companies in its floodzone that suffered severe damage from the storm. National Grid president Ken Daly said the power company has a $30 million fund, with roughly 100 companies applied. The amount of grant money will vary based on the company, he added.
Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said the grant would be a boost to Madelaine and the workers who live nearby.
“It’s going to help re-employ some of the workers who have been out of work since October, and probably will be out of work through the summer,” Friedman said. “And it’s going to help the community of Rockaway because most of their workers come from the local area.”
Madelaine, the largest Queens small business with about 450 employees, was the first on National Grid’s list, Daly said, because of the long working relationship between the two. The executives at National Grid are committed to getting Madelaine back and making candy as soon as possible.
“[For] many, many years, they’ve been supporting us as a company,” Daly said. “Today, it’s really our opportunity to return that support and help them get back up and running.”
Farber said the factory had already lost two seasons — Valentine’s Day and Easter — of candy production because of the damage from the storm. The combined cost of the damage and cost of doing business is still unestimated, he said.
The first of the eight kitchens, however, has been almost restored. That kitchen had a staff of 42 and produced about 46,000 of 100,000 pounds of chocolate per day.
The grant from National Grid was the first step in getting the staff back to work, as the company awaits potential loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. As more loans and donations come in, the staff can begin making chocolate goodies for distribution.
“We cannot lose another season,” Farber said. “We need to be back by Halloween.”
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