By DAVID BELTRAN
Sitting on a black leather chair with her cat lying stretched across the floor by the fireplace, Triciann Botta waits for customers to arrive. But the only people who stop by are other local business owners who have come to check how Botta is doing.
For most businesses in Red Hook, the road to recovery after Hurricane Sandy has been a long one. Mark’s Pizzeria, located a block away from Botta’s wine store, Botta di Vino, was closed for over three weeks and cost owner Tony Kokale an estimated $70,000. Although Botta’s store was flooded, she did not lose any inventory because she moved her wine bottles up high. When the electricity returned on Nov. 28, Botta began to start selling wine.
Botta di Vino was spared any major damage and only needed to be cleared of flood water and dried. But while the cost of repairs may have been low, the effects on Red Hook continue.
Botta was among those who had to leave. Forced out of her first floor apartment, she and her husband Jeffrey moved into a home in East Hampton. What once was a two-minute walk became a two-hour drive that costs Botta from $120 to $140 a week in gas.
As people moved out, fewer customers came in. While Botta was able to sell some wine in the week following Sandy, the effect of the storm on local businesses is only beginning. The shutdown of the local Fairway Market has reduced business.
“It wasn’t the first week,” said Botta. “It’s now. People are making the decision to leave. The 28,000 people a week that Fairway brought are no longer coming in. I’m going to say the longer it takes Fairway to come back, the longer it takes for us to come back.”
With residents leaving and supermarket shoppers not driving into Red Hook, the number of customers has dropped down significantly in a time when Botta di Vino makes the most money.
“Last week was a big tell,” said Botta. “What we usually do in a day, roshe run hyp femmes we did in a week. The holiday season is kind of a bust now. What we made in November and December would float us through March.”
With so few customers coming in, Botta has shortened her store hours. Regular store hours were from noon to nine or 10 but Botta says that’s just not necessary anymore. She now opens from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and noon to 8 p.m. on other days. She said the only customers buying wine are the people coming home from work from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Similar to many of the other local businesses on Van Brunt Street, Botta said she didn’t start her shop for the money.
“We didn’t have any dollar signs in our eyes,” she said. “We didn’t have any ambitions to be rich, we just wanted to make a living.”
Despite many obstacles in the road to recovery, Botta remains optimistic that the business will survive through the expected rough holiday season and is looking to fulfill her promise.
“We said we would give it five years to see if it would last,” she said. “And in year three, we got Sandy. So we’re going to wait and see. It’ll be tough but we expect to make it through March.”
Photo: Botta di Vino. Source: BottaDiVino.net.