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Hurricane Sandy Keeps Westport Businesses Closed, Hurts Downtown Traffic

Although Hurricane Sandy slammed the Connecticut shoreline and flooded downtown Westport more than a month ago, downtown traffic is still not back to normal as many Main Street businesses remain closed.

 

It isn’t very often that you walk down Main Street in Westport and pass by three consecutive retail businesses that have been shut down for more than a month.

While landmark businesses like Oscar’s Deli were able to reopen just days after Hurricane Sandy flooded the downtown area, places like Banana Republic and Nike remain closed.

“This was the worst flooding that we have ever had, as far as I can remember,” said the owner of Oscar’s Deli, Lee Papageorge, who has owned the deli for 23 years and worked there for 45 years.

Other retail stores that remain closed include Allen Edmunds, BCBG Max Azria, Chico’s, Kate Spade and Sunglass Hut.

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Banana Republic employee Lisa Lisefry, of Norwalk, did not go to work for nearly a month while flood repairs were made. Lisefry and her colleagues were attending a meeting at the store Wednesday evening in preparation for Banana Republic’s projected opening on Friday.

“Everybody is excited that the doors are going to open Friday,” she said.

The lack of employees and shoppers in town forced Pappageorge to adjust the amount of food he was ordering from distributors after re-opening Oscar’s Deli on the Friday after the storm hit. Papageorge said he would normally order six dozen bagels, but with the decreased downtown traffic, he was only ordering four dozen bagels.

“Between the YMCA being closed for three weeks, Banana Republic, Sunglass Hut, BCBG, and Nike, there’s a couple hundred employees who are daily, regular customers,” said Papageorge. “On top of it, you lose all of the shoppers. The traffic is just not there right now.”

Banana Republic made arrangements for their employees to work at other stores in the area. Lisefry worked a few days at the Gap, Banana Republic’s parent company.

“I was one of the fortunate ones,” Lisefry said, adding that she has another job with a steady income. “Everybody was hit hard.”

Papageorge said all of the perishables at the deli, including meats, cheeses, fish and dairy products, were disposed of prior to being inspected by the health department and electrical engineers on the Wednesday following Sandy. CL&P restored power at about 6 p.m. Thursday and Oscar’s was open for business Friday morning. 

Many of Oscar’s products come from Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn, according to Papageorge and one issue the owner said he had never experienced until Hurricane Sandy was distributors failing to make delivers.

“The distributors were unable to get gasoline, and fuel up,” he said. “So it took a few days to get totally restocked.”

Oscar’s Hebrew National products, corned beef, pastrami and smoked fish, all come from Brooklyn and Queens, he said.

Westport will hold a meeting December 10 regarding the responce of CL&P and other utility companies during Hurricane Sandy.  

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