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Hurricane forces local business to improvise

in LOCAL by

Written by: Emily Lukasewycz and James Reslier-Wells

Business owners worked around the hardships in order to accommodate the needs of locals during Hurricane Sandy. Some business owners temporarily moved into their workplace, and some saw in this tragedy an opportunity to keep business running while helping the customers without power.

Nancy Simmons’ home is in Ocean County, but she has been living in her Lawrenceville pet grooming salon, The Curry Corner, since the night Hurricane Sandy hit Mercer County.

“This building is 200 years old,” Simmons told The VOICE, “It shook and it rattled, but not one ounce of damage.”

Of particular concern to her was a 250 year-old tree at the rear of her shop. Simmons recalled the efforts she took to ensure that the tree would not damage her business.

“I said, ‘Tree, if you’re gonna go down, you’re going down that way,’” said Simmons, motioning away from her building. “And if you look out there now, that’s the way it went down.”

The Curry Corner has been open since the night of the storm despite not getting much business. Simmons was returning home from a dog show in Kansas just before the storm, with three Great Danes in tow. Simmons, an Ocean County native, cannot return to her home for another few weeks, and has been living in the tiny shop with her three dogs since the hurricane hit. She and her three dogs have been living in the tiny shop since the night the hurricane hit.

“I’m hanging on,” said Simmons. “The dogs are adjusting, but they need more exercise,” she continued, motioning to the dogs.

In addition to her three large dogs, Simmons has been offering shelter to dogs of clients and friends as they get their own affairs in order, as local shelters and kennels are either full or not accepting any more animals.

According to Simmons, the Lawrenceville stretch of Route 206 where her shop is located had lost power for at least three to four days, and a downed tree pulled down telephone poles for a quarter of a mile along the road.

One of the many trees in Mercer County that did have a substantial effect on business went down on Route 33 in Hamilton, and took down a power line with it.

“We’re right by Cedar Gardens where the power line went down,” said Kathy Rana, owner of Jersey Girl Cafe, located on Route 33.

According to Rana, the cafe lost power for three days and they had to throw away all of their food. However, there was no structural damage, and the insurance will cover the cost of the discarded food.

“I thought we’d be back in action on Wednesday morning,” said Rana, who reopened her business on Thursday.

Coolvines, a wine shop in Princeton, turned their potential misfortune into opportunity. Spring Street, where the boutique wine shop is located, was powerless for three days. Despite this, Coolvines stayed open and helped customers find their way through the use of candles and flashlights.

One employee, Brian, who began working at Coolvines after Sandy hit, mentioned that it was not just good business, he felt it was almost a community service. “With no power, what are people doing to do? I mean, they’re gonna drink. I know that’s what I did,” he said.

Using a manual imprinter to record credit transactions and their customer service, Coolvines was able to keep business going as usual.

“We always try to make people happy,” said Zach Smith, another employee of Coolvines. “We were one of the only businesses offering credit card transactions with the old system.”

Meanwhile, Simmons hasn’t done any business since the storm hit, but she is understanding about it, mentioning how the Lawrenceville community has come together since the storm left the town powerless.

“[People are] not worried about having their dogs groomed,” she said.

Even after all of the damage to her home and the lack of business she’d been getting Simmons still insisted that it could have been worse.

“I’m lucky,” said Simmons. “I’ve got a warm place and a coffee pot. Compared to other people, I’m blessed.”

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