To local businesses, Sandy was a particularly rude guest
Leaving her calling cards all over the area, Hurricane Sandy was a rude guest, especially unwelcome to local businesses.
"The storm was a nightmare," said Dr. Margaret Reed, owner of Canine Training and Behavior Services, which offers a variety of classes and private training. "We were out of power for eight days in freezing temperatures."
Hurricane Sandy had a direct impact on her business because "that was the week we were supposed to start our last round of classes for 2012, and with power out to computer and phones, we no doubt lost plenty of business," she said. "This is the second year in a row that we have been affected by the '100-year storm.' I know we have lost business because people tell me they tried to register but could not. So they went elsewhere."
The loss of power caused by Sandy also took a toll on Mike Lindquist's Wilton Auto and Tire Center at 210 Danbury Road, a gas station and auto service station. "My business was closed both Monday and Tuesday during the hurricane, and it took the rest of that week for the traffic flow to get back to normal," he said.
Given the wobbly legs of the economy, the impact was damaging. "In the economic times that we are all facing, two days of no dollars in revenue, and two to three days of lackluster sales, is devastating," Mr. Lindquist said. "Rent and payroll, along with all the other aspects of the cost of doing business, do not stop."
However, Mr. Lindquist expressed gratitude that personal injury and property destruction were averted. "I am thankful that nothing was damaged here, and as bad as things could have been, personal injury in our state was held to a minimum," he said. "That is the most important topic here."
"As they say, 'It could always be worse,' so with that said, I was very fortunate."
Similarly, Tony Grabiec, owner of Wilton Physical Therapy at 396 Danbury Road, said the storm took its toll. "We did not lose power, but our phone and Internet were out for four to five days, so it was difficult for us to contact patients and vice versa. We also had a significant decrease in patient volume because of patients dealing with their storm-related issues at their homes, school closings and transportation and power issues."
"We are thankful that none of our patients or family members were injured," Mr. Grabiec said.
No Halloween treat
Sandy's timing was particularly inopportune for the Candy Bin at 1 Danbury Road, where the owners were getting ready for the typically busy pre-Halloween weekend. "We held a big Halloween open house on Saturday, Oct. 27, but no one came because everyone was getting ready for Hurricane Sandy," said Lisa Nuzzo, co-owner of the store with Michele Mancini. "Usually, we are very busy that day, but we had no customers."
After the storm struck, there was no power at the store on Monday and Tuesday, and then when they re-opened a few days later, "there was no Internet, no cable and no phone," said Ms. Nuzzo. "We couldn't process credit cards."
Because of the storm's blow to trick-or-treaters, the Candy Bin is now offering a variety of discounted Halloween candy. "We've got a whole table full of it, and it's all 50% off," said Ms. Nuzzo.
Also in South Wilton, Fleur de Lis Academy at 27 Danbury Road had to cancel dance classes for almost two full weeks, according to Michelle Sperry, owner of the dance academy and etiquette school, which also has a catering and party service.
Facebook proved to be a valuable communication tool for students and their families.
"While our building only lost power on and off during line repairs, our phones and Internet were out for over a week," said Ms. Sperry. "Communication to our families was coordinated through our Facebook page, Fleur de Lis Academy, because so many families did not have access to their home Internet but had smart phones, so this seemed to be the best way to communicate."
The "superstorm" wreaked havoc with Fleur de Lis's schedule.
"I had to postpone a 6-year-old girl's birthday party from Norwalk," said Ms. Sperry. "We also had to reschedule a formal dining tutorial for 18 Girl Scouts from Westport. And our annual Nutcracker Tea Party & Dance is scheduled for Nov. 17 and 19, but registration for the event has been difficult because all of our online registration has been unavailable."
"Our annual holiday show, 'Hurray for the Holidays: A Storybook Nutcracker,' is scheduled for the weekend of Dec. 8 and 9, and rehearsals have been seriously set back," Ms. Sperry said. "But the show must go on."
Andrea Topalian, owner of Moments by Andrea, a photography business based in her home at Glen Hill Road, said her business ground to a halt because of the power outage left in Sandy's wake — just as her busy holiday season approached. "I work with my retoucher and my lab by sending images through a Web-based program," she said. "I also post images online for my clients to view and make selections for their order. So my work comes to a halt without Internet access."
However, Ms. Topalian also turned to Facebook for help.
"I posted on Facebook that I needed Internet access to work, and a number of people offered their homes and stores to me," she said.
"I found a friend with available office space in Wilton and set up shop there for two days to catch up. It was a lifesaver, as this is my busy season. I'm greatly appreciative of Rob Hunt for the generous use of his space."
With her artist's eye, Ms. Topalian did see a silver lining, however. "On a positive note, I found such beauty in the aftermath of the storm," she said. "When the snow came I photographed my children for our holiday card with the monster tree that came down in our back yard, juxtaposed with the green leaves and the premature snow. It was a beautiful scene made possible by two completely different storms hitting us back to back."
Dagny Eason, owner of Dagny's Real Estate, said that although Sandy stalled her business in its wake, "it was an interesting time because more bonding took place with clients. ... I went and visited and helped several sellers that needed assistance, after a past client came over and removed a monster tree from my driveway."
Ms. Eason also commended Wilton Hardware for opening early to help with storm preparedness. "The Wilton Hardware store early opening was a huge and wonderful surprise, and a great call by owner Tom Sato and manager Andy Eckman," she said. "The townspeople really appreciated that in this emergency."
At Yankee Doodle Stove and Fireplace Center at 848 Danbury Road, the storm also knocked out power and shut down business for several days, according to owner Sam Halsey.
But Mr. Halsey said Hurricane Sandy, and the snowstorm that followed on its heels, may have contributed to a slight increase in sales among those seeking reliable items such as woodstoves — which do not get knocked off the power grid during storms like these.
Some businesses fared better in the aftermath of Sandy, including Splash Car Wash at 382 Danbury Road.
"We were very blessed and only had power out for one day," said owner Mark Curtis. "Actually, the storm made a mess of cars so we were very busy starting Thursday after the storm. Cars were completely covered with leaves and dirt from the storm, so we had our work cut out for us."
Janeen Leppert, executive director of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce, said, "Going forward, we expect that certain types of services such as electricians, construction, roof repair and landscaping, may be in higher demand due to damage to homes and property from falling trees. Also, our local restaurants were able to serve many more customers whose appliances did not work."
On another positive note, Ms. Leppert said, "The Halloween scarecrows had already created a lot more foot traffic in town, and that coupled with the approaching holiday season hopefully encouraged people to patronize local businesses during this time. Now that everything is back to normal, we look forward to a robust commercial climate leading into Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah purchasing."