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Pet Stores Reeling Under Hurricane Sandy's Destruction

Posted: Nov. 2, 2012, 5:25 p.m. EDT


By Clay Jackson

Only a few days removed from Hurricane Sandy, owners of pet businesses in areas waylaid by the storm are telling stories of heartbreak and loss.

Here are some of their tales:

Total Loss
The Salty Paw, an independent pet boutique that also offers grooming and dog day care, is located in Lower Manhattan, one of the hardest-hit areas of New York City.

Parts of Lower Manhattan were awash in a 14-foot surge of water during the height of the storm, according to news reports.

“The store is a total loss,” said Salty Paw's manager, Janet Carhuayano. “The amount of water we took was literally to the ceiling.

“We finished throwing out everything that wasn't salvageable, and everything has to be sanitized before we do anything,” she added. “Just making it down to Lower Manhattan is another headache.”

The Salty Paw Damage
Merchandise and furniture are scattered after the storm surge hit The Salty Paw in Lower Manhattan.
Courtesy of Janet Carhuayano

Amanda Zink and Janet Carhuayano
The Salty Paw owner Amanda Zink, left, and manager Janet Carhuayano in 2011. Courtesy of Boprey Photography
While the store's inventory, drywall and tile flooring will be thrown out, The Salty Paw is lucky in some ways.

“Thankfully the building is cement,” Carhuayano said.

More importantly, the store's computer system was removed before the storm struck Monday night.

“It contains style numbers and client info and special notes on grooming and day care--what people want done on their dogs—so the skeleton of our business is still there,” Carhuayano said.

All that Carhuayano, owner Amanda Zink, two contract groomers and three other employees can do now is wait for contractors and the store's insurance provider to agree on a timeline for The Salty Paw's reopening.

“Hopefully it isn't too long—a couple weeks, maybe a month,” Carhuayano said. “Our store is in a shambles, but every local business in the area is devastated. Just down the block from us, three of our clients who lived in first-floor apartments lost everything.”

Carhuayano noted optimistically that The Salty Paw had to contend with neighborhood construction this year that impeded customers and hurt sales.

“We've taken a couple of hits, but we've managed to hang on because of our amazing clients,” she said. “We just hit another brick wall, but we will definitely overcome.”

Hurting in Jersey
The loss of electricity, not water or wind, was what impacted 88 Pet World the most.

Owner Joe Ricciuti's exotics pet store is far enough away from the ocean in Brick, N.J., that the storm surge didn't reach it. But trying to keep the store's reptiles, saltwater fish and corals, chinchillas, hedgehogs and ferrets alive and healthy is an immense struggle.

“I've had no power for days, and I have no idea when it will be restored,” he said.

Getting to the store is hard, too.

“There are still trees down everywhere, traffic lights are out, you can't make left turns and it takes 30 minutes to go two miles,” he said.

Ricciuti brings a portable generator to circulate the water in the fish tanks for a couple of hours at a time.

“Unfortunately, I have to take my generator back and forth because someone might steal it,” he said.

Ricciuti lost all his feeder fish, a freezer full of frozen food, some saltwater fish and some corals.

“The longer this goes on, the more saltwater fish and corals will suffer and die,” he said. “Even some of my exotic reptiles, which have to be kept warm, are starting to look a little shaky.”

Ricciuti said he can't complain.

“I'm better off than a lot of people who lost businesses and homes,” he said.

Prepared for Flood
Much of Hoboken, N.J., which lies across the Hudson River from Manhattan, was inundated by tidal surge and flooded with a witch's brew of seawater, sewage and diesel fuel.

Beowoof Provisions for Pets, on Fifth Street, suffered minor basement flooding, but conditions may have been worse had co-owner Karl Gerstner not learned his lesson last year, when a weaker Hurricane Irene hit.

“Our store is at the garden level–half in the basement, 4 feet below street level and 4 feet above,” Gerstner explained, “so we worried we would be flooded.”

One of Gerstner's customers unsuccessfully attempted to find sandbags to place at the front and rear doors.

“During a bad rainstorm, two leaves and a gum wrapper conspire to plug the drain outside,” he noted.

The tools Gerstner collected to deal with Sandy were what any pet owner may have.

“I put an upside-down colander over the drain, laid down a layer of wee-wee pads and stacked cat litter on top in front of the doors,” he said.

Did it work?

An inch of water settled in the downstairs bathroom, but Gerstner predicted 6 inches had he not taken the precautions.

While business spiked before the storm's arrival, as people stocked up on pet food and other items, Gerstner saw a precipitous drop in traffic after the storm hit. 

“I don't know if the business can survive—half the town is evacuated,” he said.

The other challenge is the loss of electricity, which cost Gerstner a freezer full of frozen dog food.

“They are predicting 10 days without power,” he said.

Flashlight in hand, Gerstner spent time after the storm guiding customers around the store as they picked up necessities.

He considers himself fortunate. A woman who owns a flower shop down the street lost 80 percent of her inventory in flood waters 4 feet deep.

“We just got a little water, which is nothing compared to 4 feet,” he stated. “We can't complain.”

Home and Business Gone   
Many franchisees of In Home Pet Services, a dog walking and pet sitting business with locations throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, were affected by Hurricane Sandy, but perhaps none more than Andrea Romero.

Romero's house in Brooklyn's Marine Park neighborhood was a total loss, slipping off its foundation in 8 feet of water, company president Robyn Elman said.

“In addition, her and her staff's cars were underwater,” Elman reported.

A majority of Romero's business was in-home boarding.

“She helped pet owners evacuate their pets through the entire storm,” Elman said. “It's just a really bad situation.”

In Home Pet Services' home office is helping Romero.

“We have already offered her a car to use as well as assistance with providing (her clients) a guaranteed room at our other locations,” Elman said. “We have been assisting her with checking emails and responding to clients—basically anything she needs, we're here for her.”

While other In Home franchisees suffered lesser damage, many lost at least a week's worth of work and income.

“At our northeast Queens location, we do 80 to 100 appointments a day and that was reduced to 15 to 20,” Elman said.

Still Open
Manhattan's Pet On Lex, an upscale pet emporium located on the Upper East Side, neither lost power nor incurred damage during the storm, but the business was still impacted.

An employee sounded harried when asked about Sandy.

“We're shorthanded right now because of all of the transportation issues,” he said as customers shopped in the background. “Business is up because people are stocking up on things like dog food, which they can't get at other places right now.”

 The Salty Paw
Tarps and sand bags did little to keep out the floodwater at The Salty Paw in Lower Manhattan.
Courtesy of Janet Carhuayano

The Salty Paw
The Salty Paw, shown in 2011, is known for its designer goods, natural foods, groom spa and dog day care.
Courtesy of Boprey Photography
 

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