Red Bank Businesses Open After Extended Outages
While many downtown businesses got power back just days after Hurricane Sandy, it took nearly two weeks for all businesses to be restored.
Maybe there was a feeling of excitement at first. Just a couple of days after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and caused serious damage and widespread outages throughout the state, the lights were back on in the businesses directly across the street.
Sure, those business on the northern side of Monmouth Street are on the same power grid as Riverview Medical Center, officials said. And, with the grid energized to get the hospital back online as soon as possible, the businesses along the same track were welcomed beneficiaries of the newly surging juice.
On a separate grid, business owners on the other side of Monmouth waited patiently for their power to be restored. A few days without power turned into a week without power. As the remainder of downtown Red Bank returned to business as usual, the Monmouth Street business owners continued to wait.
Finally, nearly two weeks after Sandy knocked out power, the lights came on.
"Somebody's got to be first, somebody's got to be last," Zoom Hair Studio co-owner Joe Mocci said. "I guess we just had to be the last."
Monday morning at Zoom was time to man the phones.
Apologies and reschedules were the order of the day, haircuts falling in somewhere behind. Customers called, one after the other, to find out if, finally, power had come back on.
It was tough, Zoom co-owner Marie Carini said, watching other salons up and operating just a few feet away while they remained in the dark. Even harder was sending updates to her employees telling them, once again, that they couldn't come to work.
"It's disheartening," she said. "You have people that work for you every day that need the money. Each day I would send out a group text that said 'not yet.' When all of your competitors are working and you're just sitting idly by, it's frustrating."
As far as a recourse for lost business, there don't seem to be any. Mocci and Carini said they dialed into a conference call with the State where officials were offering interest-free loans, but that can't make up for the business lost over the past two weeks.
In all, about 200 businesses and residences in the small section of Monmouth Street remained without power until this weekend. Among the businesses impacted were several salons, Jamian's bar, and, Broadway Diner, Red Bank's only 24-hour eatery.
At noon, Broadway Diner opened for the first time in two weeks. Manager Ellen Gamble said the diner has only closed once in the past 17 years for storm-related issues and that was for one day last year following Hurricane Irene. Like Zoom, Gamble lamented being closed for so long while the rest of the downtown's restaurants were doing business.
Even with the diner darkened, it's spinning cake and pie display empty and still, customers still arrived periodically each day, hopeful that power had come back.
Gamble said she spoke to the fire department and to borough administrator Stanley Sickles to find out when the power would come back. They were both cooperative and sympathetic, she said, but they couldn't provide any firm timetables. So, Gamble reached out to Jersey Central Power and Light every single day, leaving messages following an automated message. She never got a return call.
Like Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna, the business owners want to know why JCP&L failed to communicate the situation accurately to the borough.
"It's sad," she said. "We're an institution in Red Bank. But after these past two weeks we feel like we should be institutionalized."