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Six Months After Sandy, Merchants See Uneven Recovery

A worker at Jack N Bill's in Seaside Heights, NJ, prepares to open the bar for the summer tourist season.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
A worker at Jack N Bill's in Seaside Heights, NJ, prepares to open the bar for the summer tourist season.

Six months after Hurricane Sandy surged through the Northeast, recovery remains spotty for affected businesses, many of them mom-and-pop shops.

"Smaller places are open that can be," said Sara Williams, co-owner of Fresh Salt, a restaurant in lower Manhattan's South Street Seaport. "Aside from that, the big chains are not open," she said.

Daytime foot traffic has returned to the historic commercial and residential neighborhood, known for its cobbled streets and proximity to the water. But many smaller as well as larger merchants, including the Gap, remained shuttered. Some residents moved out after the storm, and that has reduced the nighttime business generated by locals, Williams said.

(Read More: NYC's South Street Seaport: Using Mobile Tech to Keep Sales Ringing)

Jersey Shore Update

Other communities affected by Sandy are pushing to get business up and running by summertime. CNBC's Mary Thompson reported today that the boardwalk at Seaside Heights, N.J., will be reopened come the warmer months, with most hotels scheduled to be available Memorial Day weekend.

Slow cleanup and overextended contractors have stretched the recovery time on the Jersey shore, however. That has created a ripple effect, with vacationers seeking summer rentals elsewhere.

(Read More: The Post-Sandy Quest: Coffee ... and a Shower)

Bowne & Co. Stationers, located in lower Manhattan's South Street Seaport, was among the businesses impacted by Sandy.
Source: South Street Seaport Museum
Bowne & Co. Stationers, located in lower Manhattan's South Street Seaport, was among the businesses impacted by Sandy.

Interrupted Connectivity

Lack of connectivity, including land-line phone service and Internet access, has been a major issue for many residents and small businesses alike. Not surprisingly, 71 percent of affected small businesses have had a power outage of some kind, according to a small-business Sandy survey conducted by The Hartford.

Fresh Salt was without phone and Internet services for months after the storm. With Verizon service unavailable, Williams eventually switched to Time Warner Cable and was reconnected in January.

Verizon is installing a fiber-optic network in lower Manhattan.

Seaport Neighborhood Merchants' Association

Bottom line: Half of the small-business owners affected by Sandy have lost sales or revenue because of the storm, according to The Hartford survey.

Despite the difficulties, Fresh Salt co-owner Williams and other business owners are focused on contributing to the recovery and have banded together to form the Seaport Neighborhood Merchants' Association.

"The little guys like myself, we're committed to the neighborhood," she said. "We want to stay and have it come back."

By CNBC's Heesun Wee; Follow her on Twitter @heesunwee

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