Power Outages Frustrate Shuttered Businesses

Shoreline main streets dark after Sandy passes through.

Generators the only answer for storm-hit stores.
Photo:Harriet Jones
Power Outages Frustrate Shuttered Businesses
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Power Outages Frustrate Shuttered Businesses

As Connecticut gets back on its feet in the wake of Sandy, job number one for many small businesses is just to be able to open their doors once again. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, in some hard hit shoreline communities, that’s a challenge.

Monday morning, as Sandy bore down on the tri-state coastline, some businesses defied the oncoming weather. In downtown Mystic, Wide World of Bagels was one of the few stores that still had power and owner Nicole Denkis was running to keep up with all the additional customers.

“A lot of new people, from definitely, like Dunkin Donuts and Mystic Market were closed this morning, so we’ve gotten some of those customers. Over the bridge I guess is closed – I don’t know, I haven’t left the store since six o’clock this morning. So that’s where we’re at!”

Parts of Mystic were substantially flooded with Monday night’s high tide. As the storm subsided and clean up began, Tricia Cunningham from the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce says it was heartening to see the community coming together.

“Bank Square Books had to move a ton of books, literally probably a ton of books. And there were a lot of neighbors that came out to help them move the books, so that they could get their floors ready to be worked on so that they can reopen quickly. So it’s been great seeing neighbors helping neighbors.”

But she says, even if you managed to get damage repaired and the mess cleaned up this week, for many there’s still a big hurdle to overcome.

“Hard to do anything if you don’t have power.”

This is Main Street in Niantic, Thursday, day three since Sandy hit. There’s plenty of traffic here now, but many businesses are still shuttered and dark. The town clock is stopped at 4.20, the exact time on Monday that power went out.

“A measly 120 volts to get a couple of lights going and that’s it. Cash only, I can’t get the credit card even working!  I’m up and running, I don’t know, for the last 20 minutes, so we’ll see what happens – see if the word gets out. There’s enough people out and about. I know that everyone who’s open seems to be benefiting.”

Tara Wyatt at Tumbleweeds boutique and music store has just managed to get a generator hooked up.

Down the street, Ernie Covino’s business Covino’s Groceria Italiana is still closed. He’s here mostly to go over his books, as he waits for the power to come on. He says financially, it’s not a pretty picture.

“It’s huge because your stationary costs remain the same. Your rent, and all those things that come at the end of the month, or whatever else, taxes and all that stuff – that still exists. It’s the loss of business that you have to calculate.”

Covino got his perishable goods out in time, into cold storage in Norwich. He says with his inventory at the ready, it’s frustrating waiting for the power crews to arrive.

“And when that happens we restock, we get our OK to reopen, and we’re ready to go. We go right back on Facebook, I’ll announce that we’re open and ready to go and we’ll start feeding the masses.”

For many Connecticut businesses, the wrestling with insurance claims and FEMA applications is still to come. What’s on their minds right now is getting customers back in the door.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.