Flood-stricken Morris merchants clean up, open up, keep chins up
Emergency management coordinators throughout Morris County on Thursday were compiling residential damage reports while some businesses were scrambling to reopen or find alternative sites. Joe Shin, owner of Diamond Spring Delicatessen on Broadway in Denville, was back in business Thursday with a limited selection. That was after he tossed 60 dozen eggs, 50 pounds of lettuce, ham, turkey, pork roll and an assortment of other perishable foods. “I thought I’d be a little more emotionally sick to my stomach, but what’s that going to do?’’ Shin said. He said he cares more about people continuing to support Denville’s downtown business district than losing his inventory. Jennifer Long and Alysse Gerbino, owners of Sunnyfields Learning Center on Route 10 in Whippany, are seeking a temporary alternative site for their pre-school and day care center. The center, in a building attached to the First Presbyterian Church of Whippany, sustained major water damage.
Long said the school was supposed to reopen Tuesday, but the church’s restoration project could take weeks or months. In the meantime, the partners are contacting parents about the dilemma. “We have to reimburse tuition to parents who already paid, but we’re hoping they keep their loyalty to us. We’re very close with the families and the community,” Long said.
Contrary to a previous report, Attilio’s Tavern on Route 46 in Dover was not damaged by storm drainage backup, owner Gino Pesci said. Pesci praised the town’s response to the storm and said he received calls from friends asking if he needed help. He said a 12-piece band is scheduled to play there today and an 18-piece orchestra next Wednesday.
Peggy Wright: 973-267-1142; pwright@njpressmedia.
com.Contributing: staff writer Matt Manochio
Gratitude from one Denville business
3:40 PM, Sep. 6, 2011 | The Daily Record
My family and I have owned and operated Family Barber Shop on Broadway in Denville since 1980. As many others, we were also affected by the flooding from Hurricane Irene. Fortunately, we were able to reopen quickly with the overwhelming support of our town.
I would like to thank the Kispert family, who spent countless hours helping us and other businesses in town; Marie Roviello, who kindly provided us a space in beauty salon until we could reopen; and Surprises in Store, for running electrical extensions cords when we had no power. Were also grateful to the Denville police and fire departments, who not only supplied generators for downtown businesses to help keep them safe and dry, but also kept a watchful eye on the stores and restaurants through the night.
To the DPW, which has tirelessly collected debris and garbage sometimes three times a day; to Denville Pizza and Smart World Coffee, for donating food and drink to businesses throughout the days following the flood.
I would further like to thank Glenn Tippy, our insurance agent, who has stopped in our shop every day to offer help and to make sure we were OK; Ed Saniewski from Union Hill Electric, who immediately stopped in to check and fix damaged electrical wiring; and most of all to our wonderful friends, customers and neighbors who have called and visited incessantly to offer help, food, generators, supplies, toys, kind words of encouragement and haircuts — haircuts when they really didn’t need them. Please continue to pray for all the families who were displaced by the storm and keep supporting all the businesses who were affected by the hurricane.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Michele Casco, owner
Family Barber Shop
Di Ionno: Knocked down by Irene, Denville comes storming back
Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011, 10:00 AM Updated: Sunday, October 16, 2011, 10:38 AM
DENVILLE — Geri Lombardi tries not to get emotional, but tears rise in her eyes faster than the Rockaway River floodwaters that wrecked her store.
“When we talk about this, I start to cry,” she said the other day.
She owns a candy store called Sweet Expressions,a happy place, painted lipstick pink and gold, and with glass jars of penny candy in rainbows of colors, and shelves of chocolate truffles in rainbows of flavors, and bouquets of lollipops swirled in both.
Six weeks ago, Hurricane Irene swamped it all, and Lombardi’s expressions during the flood were anything but sweet. The river filled the basement and 2 feet of the store with dirty water, turning the confectionary dream into a catastrophic nightmare.
“We lost everything,” she said.
The same was true of Sergio’s Italian market and deli and Denville Dairy. Those stores filled two 40-foot Dumpsters with spoiled food after five days of blackout turned refrigerators and freezers into airtight garbage cans.
But it’s not the thought of all the ruin that makes Lombardi want to cry. It’s the recovery. What has happened in Denville in the past six weeks is a story of a downtown’s comeback.
It’s a story of school kids and Scout troops and sports teams and church folks and police unions and all the other groups downtown merchants are constantly asked to support coming together to return the favor.
“There is an underlying strength and spirit here,” said Stephanie Meehan, owner of SmartWorld coffee and an organizer of “Denville: Up & Running,” the ambitious street fair and 5k race/walk today, billed as downtown Denville’s grand re-opening.
Downtown Denville is one the few old-fashioned business districts among miles of highway strip malls in sprawling townships like Parsippany and Rockaway. The anchor stores aren’t chains. They’re places like Denville Dairy, which draws a few hundred people every summer night, and Denville Hardware, in business downtown for more than 50 years, and Denville Seafood.
On every merchant’s door are stickers of the leagues and organizations they support: PBA, PAL, Little League, Denville football, Morris Knolls (the high school name) this or that, Rotary, etc. Those doors were always open for civic handouts, be it cash donations or merchandise, be it a youth wrestling sponsorship or church tricky tray.
Then came the flood.
Now comes the giveback.
From the Rotary Club, which bought chunks of certificates from stores such as Faith & Begora, an Irish merchandise shop, where owner Susan Banks lost 75 percent of her inventory and 100 percent of her floors and walls.
From the Morris Knolls football team and coach Bill Regan, who volunteered his boys for dirty work. They came and pulled rugs and moldy shelving and filled Dumpsters up and down the strip. From the Morris Knolls Key Club, which washed watermarks off store windows. From the St. Mary’s School parents’ association, which salvaged undamaged merchandise.
From the businesses themselves, which donated everything from food to warehouse space to help their Chamber of Commerce brethren back on their feet.
“I had 30 customers stop by and offer to help us set back up,” said Banks. “It’s been humbling to see all the help this town has offered.”
Meehan told the story of a little girl who set up a donation bucket and did a street performance outside her coffee shop. She sang for hours, then gave the money to the Denville Hurricane Relief Fund.
Today’s event has already raised more than $75,000, which will be split evenly among affected businesses and residents. There will be a farmers market, a food court, raffles and 50-50s. Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers band will be there to sign autographs. He married a Denville girl, Danielle Deleasa, whose brother’s band headlines the day-long concert.
The town has waived all vendor and permit fees, and is donating the time of the public-works crews and police, no small thing for an event expected to draw upward of 25,000 people.
“The town has been great,” Meehan said. “The idea is to let the merchants make as much money as they can.”
When the water came up six weeks ago, there was deadness in the air. The power was out, the roads impassable. Spirits were bent, but not broken.
“I said I was giving up a few times,” said Lombardi, who spent $80,000 just last year doubling her store and renovating it, only to have it all destroyed 13 months later. “I may have said it, but I never believed it.”
Same is true of the 50-some other store and restaurant owners who were temporarily put out of business by the storm. All are back, or will be, except one, bad economy and all.
For more information on the event go to denvilleupandrunning.com
• Parts of Morris County are under evacuation as surging rivers are set to crest
• Hurricane Irene’s rising floodwaters bring new dangers to N.J. residents
• Water impact from Hurricane Irene deepens across N.J.
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