116th Street On The Mend
“Grand re-opening” is a sign that can be seen in a growing number of stores on Beach 116th Street. These encouraging signs are welcome after so many stores were forced to close temporarily because of Sandy. Although the passing of time has been kind to most in getting back to business as usual, other local entrepreneurs are not so lucky. One walk down 116th Street will pay testament to that. The drastic comparisons between stores is striking – some exhibit positive messages of new beginnings, while others still suffer the scars of Sandy with closed doors. Of some 58 stores on the block from ocean to bay, 22 remain closed.
The Sandbar, shows the deepest battle wounds of all and remains closed for the foreseeable future. Stores in close proximity such as Beach Supplies, Ocean Café and Rockaway Beach Tattoo remain closed. Those closest to the beach naturally felt Sandy’s force with the most devastating effects, while further down the street things today seem more positive. Stores such as Cuisine by Claudette and Rockapup Pet Store reopened after seven week closures. Rockaway Surf Snacks, S.R. Plumbing, Tiberio’s -Northern Italian Cuisine, Paper Panda, Carvel, Harbor Wines and Spirits and the laundromat have opened and now try to re-establish their businesses. Staff at the Paper Panda store commented how “the store is open but it is certainly not business as usual.” Last year during Valentine’s week, the store sold over 1400 roses. This year that figure is below 400. Workers were optimistic however that once customers get their lives back, business will pick up. The same optimism was expressed by Liz Sulik, working at The Blue Bungalow store. Liz stated how grateful she was that people were choosing to shop locally. “We are lucky that we have such loyal customers.” As stores did not get the usual Christmas business that keeps some financially sound until beach season, shop owners are relying on residents to “shop local” more than ever. While stores struggle to attract customers, they also face other challenges such as the slow distribution of insurance money, grants, loans, and additional inventory. Also, in some cases, business owners do not own the building in which their business operates. With no business there was no money to pay rent, sometimes leading to tensions between tenant and landlord.
The Chase Bank suffered a setback as pipes burst on all floors just this week during the cold spell. Electric work done since Sandy has to be redone. The bank is now looking to open in May. Chase will remain in its temporary quarters in the municipal lot for the time being. Other banks, Capital One and HSBC remain closed.
Signs and Awnings, Job Lot, Sweet Sixteen and Pickles and Pies are continuing with business while Rogoff’s and Slices and Ices remain closed. Rogoff’s had opened briefly but is once again closed after a fire two weeks ago. Last Stop Gourmet and Dunkin Donuts had recent reopenings and are enjoying a good response from customers.
Rocapoco Car Service was an interesting but sad case. The company lost ten of its vehicles and had to lease five cars to keep operating. The company only recently got back their radio operations and are optimistic of a slow but sure recovery.
Restaurants such as Belle Harbor Steak House and Diner and Osake took reservations for Valentine’s this week. Rogers has been open for weeks. Every business owner, worker and customer expressed how it was a long road to recovery, but were mostly optimistic.
The Gift of Love bares a simple message outside its shop – “We are open, keep smiling.”
(Dean Hickey, from Dublin, Ireland, is serving as an intern at The Wave).