As the days and months since Sandy tick by, businesses in south Queens are rising from the rubble and returning to normalcy.
There was “paws” for applause on Saturday, April 27 as the Howard Beach Petco reopened. It had closed six months ago due to damage from Sandy.
Animals both big and small—all the way down to crickets—were evacuated before the storm, according to general manager Victor Aponte. He regularly communicated with his corporate affiliates. They decided to move the animals and their habitats to other locations in Queens and Brooklyn.
By the time flood waters from Sandy had ebbed back into Jamaica Bay, Petco and many other Cross Bay Boulevard businesses were considerably damaged. Aponte said floors had to be ripped up and the whole shop was inspected for mold.
Before the storm, there were 15 staffers at Petco, many of them living in the community. They were not only worried about damage to their homes and properties. They also had concerns about their jobs. However, staffers were relocated to other stores in Utica and College Point.
Now that the store has reopened, staff and community members couldn’t be happier, Aponte said.
Shoppers and their four-legged friends came to the store all day Saturday, making use of special bonuses and grabbing giveaways.
Rich Naimoli of Ozone Park said he had been shopping at another pet store on Cross Bay Boulevard, but it did not compare to the variety and help at Petco. He added that he and his wife, who own three dogs, were thrilled the Howard Beach pet shop was up and running again.
“I’m just happy they’re back,” Naimoli said.
Aponte said while Petco was part of a corporate chain, he and the staff have tried to make it a community place where residents can get one-on-one help. There are now 17 staff members in all. The reopening, he said, was another step toward normalcy half a year after Sandy devastated the area.
“It’s just exciting to get the neighborhood back to where we were before the hurricane,” Aponte said. “We really feel we’re a neighborhood store.”
According to State Senator Joseph Addabbo’s office, eight businesses are still closed on Cross Bay Boulevard. Some were able to bounce back just weeks after floodwater caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. For others, it’s been a major struggle.
It remains to be seen whether 7-Eleven and Jennifer Convertibles will reopen, However, Cross Bay Diner is slated to come back.
Joe DeCandia, owner of Lenny’s Clam Bar, was back in business less than a month after the storm. He worked practically around the clock on repairs. Now, he said, the popular eatery along with most of the boulevard is in good shape.
“We’re doing pretty good,” he said. “We’re up and running. We’re doing okay, thank God.”