Island busi­nesses await re­turn of cus­tomers

Pro­pri­etors are grate­ful that Hur­ri­cane Irma in­flicted lit­tle dam­age.

Palm Beach Daily News - - TODAY - By JAN SJOSTROM

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.

Photos by Jan Sjostrom

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.

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