Businesses on C and D Still Reeling From Sandy

Zum SchneiderSuzanne Rozdeba Zum Schneider

Three days after Sandy wreaked havoc in the East Village, businesses on and near Avenue C were still reeling from what some owners were calling the worst damage they had ever suffered.

At Zum Schneider, on the corner of Avenue C and East Seventh Street, the owner shook his head as about 15 employees and friends ran up and down from the basement and helped clean the German restaurant and bar. Three feet of water flooded the main space and inundated the basement.

VersoSuzanne Rozdeba The owners of Verso.

“This is the worst damage I’ve seen,” Sylvester Schneider, the owner, told The Local today, looking at his own business and then observing similar scenes down the street at the establishments of his friends. Since Tuesday, he’s spent his time in the basement and cleaning. “I haven’t yet been able to asses all the damage and how many of the machines are broken, but if I need to get all new equipment, it’s going to cost around $50,000 to $75,000,” Mr. Schneider said, adding that he lost about $5,000 to $7,000 in food and beer. Pumping out the water cost another $2,000.

Mr. Schneider said he is grateful none of his employees was hurt. “We are lucky,” he said. He is hoping he can reopen partially by Friday evening, and serve beer and a light menu. “But it gets difficult cleaning here in the dark. We are doing as much as we can while it’s still light out. Businesses have really suffered here, and they need to be open, especially for the local economy.”

Cell zoneSuzanne Rozdeba Cell zone at 9th and C.

He expressed frustration at how little, he said, the city has done to inform small businesses about what is happening, and how they can be helped. “Not even one cop came through the door to ask if we were okay,” he said, shaking his head. “No one is telling us what is going on. I have no idea. No one from the city came through the door to offer help. They know Avenue C was one of the worst places hit. But nothing.”

Next door at Arcane, the scene was similar. The owner, Benjamin Alter, with the help of about 10 others, worked non-stop cleaning out the spot. Only a week earlier, Mr. Alter lost his sister, Christine Ebel, a co-owner, who was found dead in a lot on East Seventh Street. “I don’t think he wants to talk to you about this,” one person helping out told The Local when asked about Mr. Alter. Dried flowers tied to a tree in front of the restaurant still marked the loss of Ms. Ebel.

Across the street at Kafana, a Serbian restaurant, the basement had also flooded, yet the owner Vladimir Ocokoljic, said he felt he had gotten lucky. “The water stopped right before the entrance to my restaurant and didn’t get inside,” he said. “It was about half an inch away.” Mr. Ocokoljic said he lost about $3,000 in food and will suffer more if his equipment, too, proves to be broken. He also lost two refrigerators and a compressor.

Brix NYCSuzanne Rozdeba Brix NYC

Mr. Ocokoljic said he called FEMA for help, “but FEMA told me small businesses are not eligible. They said I can apply for a loan. At three percent interest, I’ll take all the money I can get.”

Mr. Ocokoljic said the neighborhood support is unprecedented. “We’re all pulling together and helping each other,” he said, adding he hopes to reopen in a week.

At Verso, a few doors down at 127 Avenue C, the owner, Labinot Baraliu, 32, and his wife, Tradita, 26, had already cleaned out their basement, which had also flooded to the ceiling, and discussed the damage done to the restaurant interior when three feet of water came pouring in. “I saved for this place for a long time, and I hoped to build this place into something big with my wife. This is all I know,” said Mr. Baraliu. “This is my life.” Mr. Baraliu said that when he opened the doors on Tuesday morning, “wine bottles were floating at the front door.”

Mr. Baraliu said that he will know his damages when the electricity comes back on. “I have about $50,000 worth of equipment in the kitchen. I won’t know until the electricity comes back on to see what can be saved, and what’s broken.” He lost about $9,000 worth of food. “We just have to focus on the cleanup now.”

He’s worried he’ll have to be closed for around two to three weeks, and that the closure could seriously strain him financially. “It’s a slow time. This past summer was slow and hurt us. And it will probably take awhile for people to start coming down here again. If we miss November and December, if people aren’t coming, it’ll be hard to stay in business.”

Food line on C between 9th and 10thSuzanne Rozdeba Food line on Avenue C.

On Avenue D, John Mudd worried about his three-year-old business, Wacky Wok. His basement flooded, too. “I already had creditors calling me after the hurricane. In times like this, this is very devastating. This could very well put me out of business.” Mr. Mudd said he could suffer upwards of $30,000 in damage if his equipment is ruined. The restaurant serves organic Pan-Asian cuisine.

Other nearby businesses, many of which are delis, “came out well” because they don’t store as much stock as Mr. Mudd’s restaurant requires, he said. He’s hoping that he can reopen by Monday.

And at Brix NYC, a wine shop on East Ninth Street, around the corner from one of the few neighborhood spots where cellphone service has been working, Beatriz Arremony said she lost “hundreds of cases” of wine. “Our basement was flooded to the ceiling, and we had about six or seven inches of water come inside the main space. Most impressive was the magnitude of the water pouring in. Everything in the basement was ruined – wine, and food like beef, bacon. Thousands of dollars worth,” said Ms. Arremony, who was supposed to celebrate the spot’s five-year anniversary on Nov. 8. “We’re going to postpone that,” she said. She also owns Barnyard Cheese Shop on Avenue C, which also suffered storm damage, she said.

Ms. Arremony, who partially reopened Brix last night, said the neighborhood support has been incredible. “Neighbors have been coming and asking, ‘Do you need help?’ People are very caring.” And, she’s relying on at least one, simple concept to keep her business going through this time. “People need wine,” she said.