Restaurants able to open thrive
Flooded businesses fear costly cleanup; scope still unknown
Updated 11:59 a.m.
While some local shops and restaurants may suffer drastic losses because of Tropical Storm Irene, others were “slammed” with customers seeking refuge or a way to stave off boredom.
On Monday, as waters from the Mohawk River started to rise and Jumpin’ Jacks Drive-In in Scotia was submerged under several feet of water, San Souci Family Restaurant was packed just a short distance away.
Shannon Thouin, co-owner of San Souci, said the restaurant is usually quiet on Mondays.
“A lot of people coming in don’t have power,” she said. “I’m thinking we’re busy because Jumpin’ Jacks is closed and since the bridges were closed earlier, no one can get in or out of Scotia.
“It worked out for us, but I feel bad for all of those people out there who lost property or have no place to go,” she said.
Jumpin’ Jacks was scheduled to remain open until Sunday, but now owner Mark Lansing is unsure of when the Schonowee Avenue landmark will open again.
“We’ve got to wait until the water goes down and see what happens, then we will make a decision,” he said.
He described the sight as “overwhelming” when he went to check on the eatery Monday afternoon, as water eventually reached the rooftops. Most of the food and some of the equipment were moved Sunday night, but they were unable to get everything out, like the ice cream machines.
Fortunately, the business does have flood insurance. Lansing feels some major equipment will need to be replaced, as well as obvious repairs to their buildings.“I’ve been here for 45 years and have never seen it like that in my life,” he said. “We can’t reopen until things are safe.”
The owners of Waters Edge Lighthouse Restaurant in Glenville were also preparing for flood damage as waters from the Mohawk River filled the basement and overtook the patio area by midday.
“We’re hoping to be back in business in a couple of days,” said owner Pat Popolizio. “We’re just trying to make sure the restaurant doesn’t float away at this point, because the water is still rising.”
They too worked on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday morning to move their stock and equipment to higher ground.
Unfortunately, the restaurant only has basic flood insurance, so Popolizio is worried.
“We’ve been open since 2004 and I never thought [the river] would get this high. It’s never been an issue before,” he said.
Businesses in the city of Schenectady were encouraged by the city government to close on Monday, and many did.
Proctors was scheduled to be closed on Sunday but opted to also close on Monday and cancel the movies being shown that day, according to CEO Philip Morris.
“If we were to open it would have been dead,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll have some modest losses, but our main concern was safety.”
Ambition Cafe on Jay Street stayed open despite the warning, and owner Marc Renson said the restaurant was busier than ever.
“I read an email about staying closed but even Mayor McCarthy was in for a bagel this morning, so I believe we made the right decision and we were swamped,” he said. “I wasn’t going to back down.”
Chamber of Schenectady County President Charles Steiner said it would be impossible to estimate what the economic losses would be for the county at this point and did not want to comment on the situation until more information was available.
Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, felt similarly.
“I don’t know if there’s any real way of evaluating that. I’m sure we lost visitors, even on Saturday, knowing they were trying to get home, but they might come back next weekend,” he said.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson said the tropical storm that arrived Saturday night and canceled racing on Sunday at the Saratoga Race Course was bad for business at hotels and restaurants in the city.
He confirmed that many tourists left after the Travers Stakes on Saturday and many businesses opted to stay closed on Sunday.
Stadium Cafe on Broadway had planned to open later in the day on Sunday, but it lost power and didn’t regain it until later in the night.
“I counted about 50 to 60 people who would have come in, but we had to send them over to Circus. We must be on a different grid or something,” said General Manager Joe Shea.
Lillian’s Restaurant also had power on Sunday and was one of the few Saratoga Springs businesses to stay open.
Owner Ray Morris said half the city was dark, but it was one of the best Sundays they’ve ever had.
“There was nothing for anyone to do,” he said of those who decided to stay. “They didn’t have any reason to do anything but have lunch or dinner, or a cocktail. We did great.”
The state of emergency was lifted in Saratoga County on Monday and all businesses were back to their regular hours.
To recoup a majority of the handle lost from Sunday’s races, one race will be added to each of the six days of the rest of the season, according to New York Racing Association’s Director of Communications Dan Silver. He said overall there would still be losses, but not as significant as previously speculated.
In Montgomery County, waters continued to rise as officials released pressure from the Gilboa Dam.
Barb Russo, co-owner of the 91-year-old Russo’s Grill on West Main Street in Amsterdam, said the overflowing Mohawk River caused about 5 feet of water to enter their building. Friends and family gathered on Monday to help clean up the mess and pump out the water.
“The furniture was destroyed and will have to be replaced,” she said.
She estimated the restaurant suffered about $25,000 to $30,000 worth of damage and the business does not have flood insurance.
“[Flood insurance] was never even mentioned when we took out a policy. We’ve called for a recovery team to come and get us back open,” she said. “We’re going to have to bite the bullet and just work hard to get it reopened. This place is like home to a lot of people and it will be missed if we don’t.”
In Schenectady, Jason Kuemmel had camera in hand Monday afternoon, documenting the flood damage at his workplace, Albany Valve and Fitting on South Church Street.
He was documenting it from afar. The business that employs about 15 people was surrounded on three sides by water, part of the big lake that amounted to the area south of State Street, near Schenectady County Community College.
“We’re going to wait for the water to recede and we’re going to go back in and see what kind of cleanup we need to do,” Kuemmel, of Mechanicville, said.
He said employees spent the morning picking everything up off the floor. He was also hopeful that the damage was minimal and they could be back in as early as today.
“It’s an amazing amount of water,” he said.