Rockland Businesses Back To Work After Storm

Wednesday was the first day open for many local businesses since Sandy hit

Russo’s House of Pizza closes at 8 or 9 p.m. depending on the night, but if you call and owner Michael Russo is still there, he’ll stay open late to make someone’s pie.

“I just hate turning people away,” he said.

On Tuesday night he closed early, at about 7:15 p.m., and had to turn away multiple people. That’s because Russo ran out of food.

“We ran out of everything,” he said. “We had nothing left.”

Russo the closest he’s come to selling everything was St. Patrick’s Day, when was “down to [his] last ball of dough.” He opened on Tuesday at about noon and was one of the few businesses open that was selling hot food. He said he saw a lot of new faces stop by, including people who came from northern New Jersey, Bardonia, New City and elsewhere. Russo didn’t lose power in the storm, although he said the lights flickered off once briefly.

One negative of selling everything, however, is having to replace it. Russo was forced to open a little late on Wednesday so he could go get food to prepare.

“I had to drive to Mount Vernon and back just so we’d have stuff to sell,” Russo said. “The only thing we had here was stuff from the freezer at home. We lost power and didn’t want to throw it out, so we brought it here.”

Russo wasn’t the only business owner who had to spend Wednesday morning replacing a large amount of food. However, he was one of the few who had to do it because he sold out of food the previous day.

For business owners like Gary Oteri, who owns Gary & Company in New City, they spent a portion of Wednesday morning throwing away food that went bad while closed during the storm.

“We pretty much had to start from scratch today,” he said. “There was nothing we could do.”

Gary & Company is a cafe and bakery, and Oteri said they also do a lot of catering. He added that he was lucky he didn’t have any catering orders this week. Still, he had to throw away plenty of vegetables, lettuce, and various kinds of prepared salads and other items he keeps refrigerated.

“We didn’t suffer any wind or rain damage, thankfully,” Oteri said. “Still, it’s going to take a while to rebuild.”

Oteri said Wednesday was a little busier than a usual Wednesday, and he had people stopping in not only for food, but to eat and use the restaurant’s wifi. He added that a lot of people were calling in to see if he was open.

Robert Moskowitz said he spent some time Tuesday night calling around to restaurants unsuccessfully, and once he didn’t get an answer, he assumed the restaurant was closed. That posed an issue for Moskowitz on Wednesday, as he’s the owner of Gourmet Garden in Nanuet, and his restaurant didn’t have a working phone.

“I’m sure people called in in the morning, didn’t get an answer and assumed we were closed,” he said.

Moskowitz said that on Wednesday afternoon there was a service tech at the restaurant working on getting the phone fixed, along with the internet. In the meantime, Moskowitz had phone calls to the restaurant forwarded to his cell phone.

Unlike Oteri, Moskowitz said his restaurant only lost power in the storm for about 20 minutes total, so he didn’t have to throw everything away. Still, he was closed on Monday and Tuesday.

“I didn’t want to make my employees have to come out in the storm,” he said. “Plus, I didn’t really expect too many people to be out on the road.”

The restaurant opened on Wednesday and Moskowitz said a lot of people came in early looking for soup, hot food and places to charge phones. He couldn’t help with more plugs once all the ones in the restaurant were taken, but he did say they sold out of soup pretty quickly and were prepping another large pot.

The storm, of course, also affected businesses that don’t sell food. A bit after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Chris Barchuk, one of the owners of Funny Business in Nyack, was still waiting for a delivery from UPS. He said it was the first day since the storm UPS was delivering items, and he understood perfectly why it might take a while.

Still, Wednesday is a big day for Funny Business, a comic book store, as it’s the day each week when new comics are released.

“I had a feeling we weren’t going to get the new stuff in, so I put word out that we weren’t expecting to get the delivery too early,” he said.

Still, Funny Business was open on Wednesday. Barchuk said a few people who were walking around town stopped in, but it wasn’t too busy. He also didn’t have power until about 4 p.m. in the store, but they stayed open while waiting for their delivery.

The store was closed on Monday and Tuesday, although Monday is a day the store is usually closed anyway.

“We stopped by the store at like 8:30 or so Monday night and actually saw when we lost power, so the storm hitting on Monday wasn’t really the worst thing for us since we’re normally closed then,” he said. “Sometimes you have to try to find the small positives.”


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