Rehoboth businesses rebound quickly from Sandy

Chamber estimates storm cost city $6 million in business
Patrons pack the Greene Turtle in Rehoboth Beach as the town reopened for business after Hurricane Sandy left town Oct. 30. BY RYAN MAVITY
November 13, 2012

Rehoboth Beach was spared the worst of Sandy’s wrath and once roads were reopened, business began coming back.

The Greene Turtle on Wilmington Avenue, with its view overlooking the ocean, was hopping Oct. 30 as visitors piled back into Rehoboth. Greene Turtle co-owner Bill Frankis said people were coming in as soon as the restaurant was ready to open at 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes later than usual.

“A normal Tuesday at the end of October, we wouldn’t be this busy,” Frankis said.

Like Greene Turtle, Grotto Pizza's flagship location at 36 Rehoboth Ave. was also busy the day after the storm.

“It definitely seemed like cabin fever took over a little bit,” Grotto General Manager Chris Short said. “A little bit of it is to walk up and assess the damage. It’s literally been people that either haven’t stayed in town or live out of town with a place down here. We’ve seen some of our traditional locals in and are glad we’re open. It’s been a true mix of everybody.”

Bill Svolis of Gus and Gus, said, “We didn’t get much damage. Other places got it a lot worse than we did.”

Svolis and his family stayed in Rehoboth despite orders to evacuate and they never lost power.

Svolis said he did not think the storm was going to do much damage to Rehoboth. When asked why, he said, “Past experience. I’ve lived here all my life, I don’t see hurricanes do much damage to Rehoboth. I guess it’s the way we’re situated. I don’t know. It’s like a safe haven. I don’t know the answer.”

“We just got lucky again. Real lucky. Last year, it hit Virginia and bounced around us. This year it went north of us so all the wind came off the land instead off the ocean. Had it come at us, the wind coming off the ocean, we would have flooded,” Frankis said.

Frankis said his concern was for the Playland arcade downstairs from the Greene Turtle, which had been sandbagged but was susceptible to flooding. He said whatever business was lost on Sunday and Monday got picked up on Tuesday after he reopened.

Alison Blyth, owner of Go Fish, said, “We got some water in our front window, but apart from that we are fine. We never lost power or anything. We’re good. We prepared; there was a lot to undo.”

Blyth said while she evacuated, she was able to still see what was happening at her restaurant via security cameras. She said Sunday, which was scheduled as the Sea Witch costumed pet parade, was the only significant business day she lost.

Short said the flagship store 36 Rehoboth Ave. did not sustain any damage, although there was some minor damage at the Boardwalk locations, which were not expected to be open anyway.

He said the restaurant was able to get staff together and be open the day after the storm. Grotto had put some of its supplies on a truck in case the restaurant lost power. Once the restaurant was able to get everything back in, get prepped and staffed, it opened around 11:30 a.m., 30 minutes later than usual, Short said.

Comparing Sandy to Hurricane Irene last August, Blyth said, “It wasn’t as bad as last year, the third weekend in August – that was bad.”

“We’re lucky. I’m glad everyone’s OK and everything seems OK and we still have our beach,” she said.

Candy Kitchen, at the corner of Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk was open by Tuesday afternoon, despite being in an area that did see some flooding.

Employee Thomas Coffren said, “It actually wasn’t bad. We sandbagged and stuff, but there was minimal flooding. We didn’t have any damage. It worked out pretty well. We just sandbagged and lifted things to higher levels and put a lot in the back.”

He said the Bethany Beach Candy Kitchen sustained damage.

Amy Norgate, general manager of Tanger Outlets, said for the safety of employees and shoppers, the outlets closed Sunday through Tuesday but reopened on Wednesday.

Economic damage still being calculated

Carol Everhart, CEO and president of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said conservatively, the storm cost the city economy $6 million, combining revenue lost from daytrippers and people in town for dinner and nighlife later.

Karen Smith, communications director of the Delaware Economic Assessment Office, said the storm's economic impact has not yet been determined

One of the casualties of the storm was the Oct. 28 Sea Witch costumed pet parade, which was cancelled as the result of the storm. Everhart said occupancy around town was at 85 percent Friday night, the first day of Sea Witch and slowly dwindled down as people heard about the severity of the storm.

By Saturday night, the day of the Sea Witch parade, occupancy was down to 70 percent and by Sunday, when Gov. Jack Markell ordered coastal communities to be evacuated, Everhart said occupancy was down to 10 percent, much of which could be attributed to the media crews in town to cover the storm.



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