Three businesses reopen in village
By Pauline Liu
A sense of normalcy is slowly beginning to return to Margaretville, after three popular businesses reopened in the village over the past week. They’ve been closed for nearly three months, following extensive flood damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
The Bun n’ Cone, which has been a fixture on Bridge Street for 23 years, reopened its doors on Saturday. Owner Lilly Piacquadio, who is Margaretville born-and-raised, admitted she was nervous as she and her staff prepared for reopening day. While the surroundings were familiar, there have been a number of changes. “I’m not used to running around anymore,” she said.
“There’s new, bigger equipment. New freezer. New sandwich units.” Gone are the trademark diner booths, which were destroyed in the flood. They’ve been temporarily replaced by new, black tables and folding chairs.
However, it didn’t take long for Piacquadio to slide back into her old routine as her regular customers turned out for breakfast. “It was like we never closed,” she said, happily. “Everybody just came back. It started slowly, then suddenly we were busy. People were calling up from Long Island to see if we were open. They were planning their vacations on whether or not we were open.”
Getting her business reopened was a challenge for Piacquadio, but she has been down this road before. The flood of 1996, caused more extensive damage to her business. It took a year before she could reopen, but she rebuilt her business to withstand another flood.
“That was a 100-year flood,” she said, “Now they’re calling this one the 500-year flood, but it wasn’t just a flood, it was a hurricane.” Piacquadio believes her building wouldn’t have sustained nearly as much damage this time, if the wind and rain had not forced a rear window to open inward, sending water and mud through the building and out the front door.
While Piacquadio does have flood insurance, she’s still waiting to hear from her insurance company. “If I depended on just insurance, I’d still be closed,” she said. “I borrowed money from my father and I got some money from the MARK Project.” When she does finally receive her insurance settlement, she knows exactly what she’ll do. “I need to replace the booths,” she said.
The Margaretville Car Wash on Fair Street reopened quietly last Friday, but thanks to word-of-mouth, customers were rushing to come back. Monday customers were smiling as they returned.
“My car is happy and so is its owner,” said Carol Curran of Arkville as she washed her SUV in the self-service bay. “The last time it was clean was before the flood.” Kathy Williams of Shandaken came to run some errands in the village and thought she’d give her car a wash as well. “It suds up great,” she said. “I’m glad it’s own again.”
For five years, Richard Busciglio of Margaretville has been operating the car wash for his father, who owns the business.
According to Busciglio, it will take a few more weeks before the automatic car wash is up and running. Right now two of the self-service bays are fully operational and a third bay still requires some repairs. However, returning customers will be happy to know that Busciglio has cut the start up prices of his self-service car washes by 25 percent. “It used to take $4 to start the self-service wash, now it takes $3,” he said. “It will help people and it will help me.”
While the business is covered by flood insurance, Busciglio explained that there were $90,000 worth of repairs that insurance did not cover, including blacktopping, replacing the self-service vacuum cleaners and some of the automatic car wash machinery. “My father put up a lot of the capital,” he explained. Fortunately, Busciglio is quite handy. When it came to rebuilding some of the machinery in the self-service bays, he was able to get the replacement parts and do the work himself.
Meanwhile, at press time, Kari Blish of Andes was preparing for the Wednesday reopening of the Flour Patch, which she has owned for 11 years. The eatery is located on the southside of the Granary Building on Bridge Street. She says that her regulars are not about to forget the eatery’s most popular “Forget-Me-Not” sandwich.
“The phone calls have not stopped,” she said with a big smile. “A lot of customers have been calling to find out when we’re reopening and it’s be very encouraging.” Blish wants them to know that both the menu and the prices remain the same.
She explained that there’s nothing like family. Without hers, she would not have been able to reopen. “I didn’t know where to begin or how long it would take, because I’ve never been through something like this before,” she said. Her uncle and aunt, Rich and Barb Funck, bought her a shiny, new display case for her baked goods. Her uncle, Russ O’Connor, came from Oregon to help.
Replacing the counters, flooring and repainting, became a family affair as relatives pitched in and even helped to save the chairs and table bases. Thanks to landlord, Eric Wedemeyer, the business has new walls as well as new heating and air-conditioning systems.
The staff of six, including Blish’s mother, Sandy O’Connor, will all be returning to what they believe is a new and improved restaurant lay-out. It was paid for in part with help from the MARK Project as well as loan, since the business was not covered by flood insurance. Customers will find wider doors and hallways for handicap accessibility. There’s a new, more spacious coffee bar, but the entire unit has been pushed back to give customers more room to maneuver.
It is Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis’ responsibility to determine whether the businesses are up to code in order reopen. There are still a number of flood-damaged businesses that are trying to come back. “It’s getting better,” said Davis.
Last week, the owners of Freshtown supermarket were issued a flood plain development permit. Davis believes the business is still several weeks away from reopening. Meanwhile, CVS is making plans to return on its original footprint, right next door to Freshtown. “There will be a second story for the back third of the building and it will be used for storage,” explained Davis. “The plan is to have the foundation in place before the frost sets in. They can build the exterior walls this winter and keep moving forward.”
As for the staff of Coldwell Banker-Timberland Properties, which has set up temporary offices in the Commons Building on Main Street, they’re preparing to move back to the Granary Building. The front portion of the historic building was destroyed by floodwaters, but Eric Wedemeyer explained that the restoration and renovation work are right on target. “We should be up and running by the middle of December,” he said. “The stonework and landscaping are almost done and we’re ordering new furniture right now.” As part of the renovation, Wedemeyer said he has added two new commercial spaces between the Flour Patch and his realty company. He is now looking for tenants.