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Cedarhurst Merchants Struggle in Sandy's Aftermath

Most owners still experiencing drastic decline in business.

Nearly two weeks after most businesses reopened, Cedarhurst storeowners continue to grapple with the fallout from Hurricane Sandy, with many of their customers more focused on repairing their homes and lives than heading to Central Avenue to shop in their favorite stores.

Eitan Shoshan, owner of women’s clothing shop Orly, said he feels lucky that his store incurred no physical damage other than losing his awning. However, the devastation to the neighborhood and loss of business is another matter.

“This is a very difficult time after the storm,” he said. “We lost a lot of business when the power went out. Our community and some of the residents have been hurt by damage. Some of the customers have relocated somewhere else. Some of them don’t have their mind on shopping or anything else but fixing up their house.”

These sentiments were echoed by nearly all the Cedarhurst merchants Patch spoke to. Not only are owners concerned about losing thousands of dollars in revenue over the past three weeks, they are fearful of how long it will take until things improve and if they can keep their heads above water financially until then. This disaster, coupled with the ongoing economic downturn, could drive already struggling owners out of business. This is especially true for stores that deal in luxury products or non-essentials — goods that troubled residents will be more likely to forgo in difficult times.

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“It was really bad that we couldn’t open for two weeks,” said Yelena Khromaya, owner of Lucky Find. “It’s been slow since we opened back up. I’m giving a 50 percent off sale to help get some business, because I need some money to pay bills. With the storm, people will use their money to fix up the house — they won’t have money to buy in the stores.”

Mendel Rickman, owner of Sterling Electronics, said he had some minor damage to his store, but was able to reopen last Wednesday.

“Business has been slower than usual, because there are people who are suffering out there,” Rickman said. “Maybe the holidays will cheer people up a little. Thanksgiving is coming, and usually people come here to buy cookware. We’ll see.”

Morton’s owner Steve Silverman opened up his store long before power was restored, using flashlights for the first five days.

“Steve put his car outside and ran a wire to the cash register so we could use it,” said Jerry, a store employee. “And people were coming in, because everyone needed thermals, warm socks, gloves, jackets — anything to help them stay warm without heat. But now business is slower. People have too many headaches to think about shopping right now.”

Rouge Makeup Studio employee Michal Digmi said that overall, business hasn’t been too bad, thanks to longtime customers who still want to look their best, even in the worst of times.

“I think they want to cheer themselves up after all this,” Digmi said. “When you look better, you feel better. Our clients were devastated that we were closed for two weeks. Some were very affected by the storm and some really weren’t. No matter what — you have to keep up with your brows. But business is a little down. I notice there’s still a lot less traffic on Central Avenue than usual. As far as walk-in clients, business has slowed down for us.”

Although most merchants lost a lot of business because of lengthy closings and have seen a significant drop in business since they reopened, there are a few exceptions, including Robert Wengrofsky, owner of Variety Connection. He said he is lucky to carry products that residents needed after the storm and also had the good fortune of being one of the first in the area to have power restored.

“We were only without power that first Wednesday, so we used flashlights,” he said. “At first, people needed a lot of flashlights, batteries, extension cords and tarps. After that it became cleaning supplies like mops, brooms, buckets, gloves and cleaning chemicals. Also a lot of storage containers to put their belongings in. The community was grateful that we were open every day to help them. Business is still better than it usually is this time of year.” 

Capt. Danny Gluck, commanding officer of the Fourth Precinct auxiliary police force and co-owner of Mauzone, said that there was minimal physical damage to most stores. The power outages and displaced customers are what hit merchants the hardest. Half of his unit was severely affected, having lost their homes, possessions and cars. He said that given the circumstances, it’s going to take quite some time for people to rebuild and get back to normal.

Gluck added that many food stores and restaurants, such as pizza places and Chinese eateries, seemed to fare well in the situation.

The Cedarhurst Business Improvement District is placing some hope on its upcoming Black Friday and Midnight Madness event, which starts on Friday. But due to Sandy, there have been a few snags in promoting it. The storm upended plans to advertise, and the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department is not able to hang the event banner, because many of their trucks have been damaged. Still, Teri Schure, executive director of the BID, said she thinks some people will make use of the sale to replenish things they've lost. 

“Everybody was affected by the storm. Everyone has to rebuild and make up for lost time and money,” said Shure, whose North Woodmere home was damaged by Sandy. “People are just starting to realize how much this will impact their lives and their futures."

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