Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hurricane Sandy Can’t Keep Entrepreneurs Down

From Changing the Game:How Business Innovations Reduce the Impact of Disasters Page 7

By Nancy Ploeger, President, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce 

Jacqueline Goewey, owner of Made Fresh Daily on Front Street in the South Street Seaport of New York City, has been in business for more than five years and has more than five full-time and part-time employees.

She opened her café just as the recession hit. She was just starting out and says the recession actually allowed her to focus on the finer points of running a business and it has gotten better and better every year—until Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

Goewey’s business dropped off tremendously, and not only was she faced with a disastrous business situation but—to add insult to injury—she also lives in the area and could not even get into her apartment for months after the storm. She had to sublet an apartment and eventually find a new one.

The day after the storm hit, Goewey, her manager, and staff gathered in boots and work clothes to go into the café, assess the damage, and begin clean-up efforts. There was a surge of seven feet of water at the front of her store and four feet in back. Even though the café is elevated off the sidewalk (four small steps to enter the café and about a three-foot elevation), the surge swept through the restaurant.

All of the machines were ruined. The only good thing is that the café lacks a basement, unlike many other stores and shops in the Seaport area, so Goewey had no electrical issues to contend with. Her furnace had to be repaired to the tune of $4,000 and she had to purchase new refrigerators and lost thousands of dollars in food, products, and supplies.

However, the group “worked like dogs” to clean up and get the café open as quickly as they could. They were able to reopen just before Thanksgiving—less than one month after the hurricane. For weeks, they were the only business open on their street.

Goewey trimmed her staff, hoping to hire them back as business took an upswing. As construction workers moved in and out of the area, she offered breakfast and lunch specials to attract their business. Also, the local residents came back, grateful for her café and for her dedication to reopening, as she offered not only great food but also a place where they could hang out and meet fellow Seaport business owners and residents.

One of Goewey’s neighbors, Victor Chan, owner of Suteishi Japanese restaurant a few doors down, came to her with an innovative idea. Because most of her baking was done in the early morning and most of her clients came from early morning to about 4 p.m., Chan asked Goewey if he could share her kitchen. He could prepare food for takeout during the evening, when her shop was closed, and this way he, too, could retain his customers even though he could not offer restaurant seating. Goewey agreed, and the two owners supported each other to keep their businesses open and serve their customers. Goewey says that Chan’s staff even helped her staff package and wrap cookies for a special event she was doing to help raise funds for a local nonprofit.

Their staffs worked well together during the few hours a day they overlapped and became quite close; they keep in touch even today. Suteishi was able to keep 60% to 70% of its business just through deliveries and worked out of Made Fresh Daily for 10 months.

Made Fresh Daily’s business continued to increase, and Goewey was able to rehire her staff. The café was doing just fine until fall 2013, when one of the Seaport area’s attractions,

Pier 17, shut down, resulting in fewer tourists. After the tough and long winter of 2013–2014, Goewey is looking forward to spring, when she can greet her returning customers, support her community, and serve her delicious food.

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