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Open Businesses Struggle to Meet Customer Demand

Residents flock to stores that are up and running after Hurricane Sandy.

With power restored to several businesses in Woodmere and Hewlett since Tuesday night, people from all over the Five Towns and surrounding areas are descending on these stores in droves in search of needed food, gas and other provisions since Hurricane Sandy swept through the area.

“Business has been really steady and busy, even though it’s for a very unfortunate reason,” said Woodmere Key Food manager J.D. “We are happy that we can serve the community during this time. We’re doing everything we can to help our customers.”

Although the supermarket didn’t stock up on specialty items in preparation of the storm, surprisingly, it is not running out of inventory, including ice and water, which has been moving out the door very rapidly.

Key Food employee Carlos Espinao said that one reason the store hasn’t run out of many necessities is because the owner and managers are in the habit of stocking up on many products that have a long shelf life. He said that the only thing that may run out by day’s end is gallon bottles of water, but stock will be replenished soon.

“It’s been really busy,” he said. “We’re getting customers that we hardly ever get — people from Long Beach, Far Rockaway and other towns. Normally we close at 9 o’clock, but last night we stayed open a little later, and tonight if customers are still coming in, we’ll probably do it again. We’re trying to be as available as we can to the customers right now. I have no power at home [Uniondale], so I didn’t mind coming to work today at all.”

Maria Rodriguez of Far Rockaway was happy to travel to Woodmere, an area that wasn’t as hard hit as her own, to stock up on food for her family today.

“One of my neighbors told me it was open here, so I came right over,” she said. “We have no power and no cell phones. Cars are upside down, and no one has come to fix anything. But I’m in Bayswater, which wasn’t hit as hard as Bell Harbor, Shore Harbor and Rockaway Beach.”

Peninsula Wines and Liquor in Woodmere is another business that has seen an uptick in sales in the past few days, because “Everyone has to have a hurricane party,” joked cashier Joe Sellino.

Natalie Brady, membership consultant of New York Sports Club in Woodmere, said she feels very fortunate to have power, because a lot of other gyms in the area are without.

“Our clubs in Long Beach and Oceanside are closed, so business is doing well, because we’re getting members from our other locations," she said. "Even members who haven’t lost power at home want to come here, because many aren’t back to work, so they still want to keep up with their fitness. Those who don’t have power have a place to go, and they are also using our showers.” 

For restless children who have been out of school all week, some parents have found Woodmere Bowling Lanes to be a welcome diversion.

“People are coming here because they don’t have school or work,” said Shawn Teti, who is helping out at the bowling alley during the post-storm period. “We’re selling a lot of food, because all the restaurants that are up and running are so crowded. Some people are coming to charge their phones and computers. But the hardest part is letting more people know we’re open. We use Cable, which is down, so the phones aren’t working."

With so many popular stores closed down this week, those that are open have experienced unprecedented crowds, such as Marinara, Bagel Boss and Friendlier. Owners and managers of these locations were too inundated with customers to comment for this story. Traffic at Peninsula Shopping Center is especially heavy, with customers vying for parking spots all day long and lines for eateries out the door.

According to Eddie E. of North Woodmere, who works at Sneaker Warehouse, power was restored yesterday. Customers have been buying a lot of boots for various clean-up jobs.

Koby Ben Simon, owner of TBS Electronics, said that his Cedarhurst home was flooded, so for refuge, his family is staying at the store during the day, where he said “business is booming."

Products such as car chargers, batteries and flashlights are flying off the shelves. The store's stock of D batteries has been depleted.

Majestic Auto Spa is servicing a lot of flooded and muddied cars, according to owner Ed Long, who feels lucky to have power. He said his customers are surprised and grateful to see he is open.

“There’s free coffee, and people are coming in to charge their phones,” he said. “It’s making a lot of people happy. It makes them feel good to have their car clean."

Dmitriy Israel, owner of View West Optical, said he is getting a lot of business for repairs, not sales. But personally, things have been tough for him. Gas stations are experiencing historically long lines, hot tempered customers requiring police intervention and gas shortages.

“The Sunoco across the street is done,” Israel said. “I’m stuck here. I don’t have enough gas to go home in Forest Hills. The stations by me are also closed. I just want to go home.”

With reporting by Stephen J. Bronner

Chris Albanese November 02, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Can someone get the word to Pizza Amore that they are missing a golden opportunity here. With the 1/2 hour wait at The Pizza Place in Hewlett, many of their customers are looking for local alternatives. How about offering delivery (maybe a 2 block walking radius) and please STOP BURNING THE PIZZA not everyone likes it well done. I just remembered why I stopped going there.
Chris Albanese November 02, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Kudos to Foodtown that has been open every time I had to make a run. The cashiers were very pleasant and the staff was their usual helpful selves which goes a long way in these trying times. Now if we can just get their customers to drive/park a little better in the parking lot, we'll all be fine.
Rhonda Romanelli November 02, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Chris..I agree..the worst drivers normally in the Foodtown lot! Gotta be much much worse today! I was there this morning...still quiet...did they get milk delivery yet? None on shelf at 9 am
Luigi Muto November 02, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Hi I'm the owner of Alfies pizza and la cucina unfortunately I have no power for the last 5 days but as soon as I open I'm going to do the best I can to help our community in the terrible disaster were going through , I'm going to donate as much as I can to the redcross and other foundations involved in the hurricane restoration ill do whatever I can to help and not take advantage of ppl with needs in a time like this god bless everyone were gonna get through this !
David Friedman November 02, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Hey Luigi, Post on facebook when you reopen. Good luck. David Friedman

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