Rebuilding a Small Business

When you have lost your only source of income, and insurance or FEMA does not cover your loss, how are you expected to survive?... Let alone rebuild?

Some of the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy are the small businesses. Driving along the Rockaway peninsula, you will notice more shutters than ‘Open’ signs. After four to eight feet of water swept through houses and businesses two and a half months ago, most proprietors still aren’t able to get back up and running.

Phil Cicia owns four shop fronts along Rockaway Beach Blvd between Beach 87th and Beach 88th st. One space is his general store and another he houses his beer distribution for the bars, restaurants and hotels in the area. He rents the third to a check cashing business and the fourth to a H&R Block. He’s been there for 23 years.

Phil’s commercial insurance will not cover the flood damage, however, the cost of the flood option on his policy over the last 23 years would far out weigh the cost of the damage caused.

The cost to restore the shop’s fittings alone will be up to $350,000. The cost to replace all the merchandise destroyed will be up to $250,000. Nothing is salvageable, except for the $1.60 he can redeem per recyclable beer bottle. This estimate does not include his other two store fronts, nor his forklift or truck that was destroyed also. He fortunately has a van left for transportation.

Currently, some of the larger beer companies refuse to supply Phil with stock to sell out of his current situation until the invoices for the damaged stock is paid. He has a friend in Long Island City supplying him in the interim so he can get back on his feet. However, business is more than slow. Most of his customers are either not yet open for business, or they have simply left the area.

With next to no business coming in, he still needs to gut and rebuild all four properties and also pay his four employees.

Phil is hoping that the 7million beach goers from Brooklyn and Manhattan will return in the Spring and Summer months to help restore his business.

Kisha Bari is an Australian photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her ongoing work in the Rockaways post Sandy can be seen on her blog You can see her commercial work at