BY TARICE L.S. GRAY AND SAM BARRON
When Chris Rubeo and his family took over the True Value Feinsod Hardware store in Port Chester nearly eight months ago, he was prepared for incidentals, those added miscellaneous costs that come with running a small business.
At the time, weather was not a major cost concern for his business, but Rubeo was aware the region had suddenly become a favorite destination for extreme weather. “Ever since I bought my house (in Thornwood) four years ago, every year there’s been something crazy,” he said.
Rubeo thought it might translate into more business for the store, located at 43 North Main St. Area residents certainly would need shovels, flashlights and even generators, but Hurricane Sandy provided another surprise for the business owner. “We were completely shut down. The warehouse was not able to get us merchandise for five days.”
Rubeo owns two hardware stores in Westchester County. The other, Berger Hardware in Hawthorne, never lost power. That store was overwhelmed with customers vying for at least one of the 400 generators they had in stock, while the Port Chester location remained in the dark. “It’s so weird, the difference on the impact in businesses that are 20 minutes apart.”
It was a hardship other Port Chester merchants could empathize with. Several small businesses in the area reported power losses and flooding according to Ken Manning, executive director of the Port Chester-Rye Brook-Rye Town Chamber of Commerce. He acknowledged the village lost 80 percent of its power and areas of Port Chester were challenged with flooding. Manning tried to be proactive with area merchants, offering a 26-page guide on emergency provisions distributed by newly elected New York State Assemblyman Steve Otis. Still, many small businesses suffered.
Among them, the Port Chester Coach Diner on Boston Post Road closed for five days and lost its inventory. A few blocks away on Westchester Avenue, the newly opened Capitol Theatre also closed its doors. Tom Bailey, owner and operator of the concert venue, decided to cancel five shows including events featuring comedian George Lopez and rock legend Meatloaf.
“We encourage people to take public transport, especially for the shows. The Capitol Theatre is located across the street from the Metro North train,” he said. “So the decision to shut down New York public transportation was the driving factor behind our move to suspend the show.” The first show was the night Sandy arrived, and then the power went out. Bailey had to tell temp workers who earn money just on show nights and a staff of more than 20 employees to stay home.
Three of the shows including George Lopez have already rebooked. Still, Bailey said, “When you move a show to another date it’s not like you get all you money back from that show. Basically we’re losing a day that we could have had an event.” Bailey says he has moved forward with filing insurance claims and his insurance representative with the Stern Agency, based in Manhattan, is working diligently on his behalf. But Bailey said he was more concerned about the safety of his workers and patrons of the theater than monetary losses.
Rubeo agreed. “(The storm) put a hurting on our ability to do business, but we couldn’t help people in the community.” And for Rubeo that hurt more. Small business need to foster a relationship with residents of the neighborhood they serve. In that respect, the storm provided some revelations for each owner.
Both Rubeo and Bailey want to maintain their reputations and commitment to their communities by supporting residents in need. It’s a win-win, because customers that know you care come back, Rubeo said. “We are really trying our best to be a good business in the community. We’re trying to do the right thing.” Bailey feels the same. Looking ahead, the theater owner added, “One thing I would do is buy a bigger generator.”