Island businesses await return of customers
Proprietors are grateful that Hurricane Irma inflicted little damage.
Palm Beach businesses were rebounding from the glancing blow Hurricane Irma struck Sept. 10. Many shops were shuttered, but a few stores have reopened.
Most proprietors were thankful that Irma inflicted little damage. That is, aside from knocking out trade.
At Piccolo Gelato, 86 Via Mizner, Samuele Carannante presided over a colorful array of gelato tubs in air-conditioned comfort. Asked how business fared, he smiled and swept out his arms to embrace the empty store, which reopened Thursday.
Things are much the same at Piccolo Mondo, Renato’s, Pizza Al Fresco and Al Fresco, the other restaurants where he’s food and beverage manager.
He attributed the lack of customers to the curfew, which was shortened from dusk to dawn to midnight to dawn late Thursday, and the town’s post-Irma entry restrictions, which limited access to residents, business owners, verified employees and a few other services.
A couple of customers were parked at the bar in Bice, 313 1/2 Worth Ave. The restaurant reopened Wednesday after the power came back on Tuesday. The south side of Worth Avenue still had no power until Satur- day at noon.
The restaurant was serving a reduced menu because it’s waiting for food deliveries, General Manager Jose Gonzalez said. By dinner, more entrees should be available, he said.
With so little business “we spend more money than we take in,” he said.
But that isn’t the point. “We have customers who have been coming here for many years,” he said. “They’re calling me on my personal cell. They want to get out. They don’t have enough food at home. I’m comfortable with serving them. It makes me happy to see their faces.”
At Jennifer Miller Jewelry, 5 Via Mizner, employee Nicole Vojkovic was keeping busy with online orders. There hasn’t been much business, but she’s content to be working.
“I don’t have air conditioning at home,” she said.
Thankful that his business, 55 Croisette, 206 Worth Ave., weathered the storm unscathed, Stephane Sportouch was returning from a celebratory lunch at Bice. Since the shop reopened that morning, only one customer had stopped in, and she didn’t buy anything.
“For sure, there’s no business,” Sportouch said. “But I think that after something like this, we need to prove to everybody that life continues.”
Raptis Rare Books, on the south side of Worth Avenue, has no power. “It’s still about 78 degrees in there, but we need to get the power on ASAP,” Adrienne Raptis said. “In the future, we’re definitely getting a generator.”
There’s been little walk-in trade at RSVP Global, 277 Royal Poinciana Way, since the shop reopened Wednesday, but its trucks are out handling calls for shipments, manager Jack Rance said.
“I don’t believe people know we’re open,” he said. “Plus some evacuees haven’t gotten back yet.”
At Woofgang Bakery in the Royal Poinciana Plaza, owner Michael Quinn hasn’t had much company, either.
But “there are still people on the island who have animals,” he said. “I want to be sure I’m here to take care of them. A number of people have dropped off their animals to be bathed and in air-conditioned comfort for a while.”
General Manager Adil Avunduk was taking the empty tables at Sant Ambroeus on the plaza’s east side in stride. “We’ve already lost four or five days of business,” he said. “At this point, it doesn’t matter.”
Like other Palm Beach businessmen, he wants to be there for his customers in good times and bad.
Jack Rance, manager of RSVP Global on Royal Poinciana Way, said walk-in trade was slow, but phone-in business was keeping the company’s trucks busy Thursday.
Bradford Winston, left, Adrienne Raptis and Stephane Sportouch said Thursday they’re grateful Hurricane Irma didn’t inflict more damage.