BY GINA MARIE GREENWALD
It has been eight months since Hurricane Sandy hurdled through the Rockaway peninsula, leaving many people in the area picking up the pieces of their beloved community; particularly store owners. Rogoff’s Cards and Gifts, located on the main strip of Rockaway Beach’s 116th street, is slowly overcoming the inevitable doom that some stores in the areas have faced as they closed their doors permanently.
Rogoff’s, a local cards and gifts store, has been selling everything from the bare essentials of batteries to special occasion gifts since 1937. Current owner, Peter Patel, who bought the establishment in 1997 from the original owners, explains that he was at his Jersey residence when the storm had rocked his store, leaving over $100,000.00 in damages and a loss of %75 of merchandise.
“When we came back, it was destroyed. We put sandbags down, but it didn’t help,” says Patel. “The basement was full of water and the main floor was flooded out. The water on the main floor was gone when we came back but the water marks were about 4 feet on the main floor.”
Patel, like many of the other store owners in the area, had basic insurance, such as fire and wind, which did not cover all of the expenses of rebuilding after the storm and with little to no help from government agencies, it is taking longer than anticipated for the store to get back to its pre-storm status which he estimates to be another three to four months.
“It was a long wait, after the storm. What wait though? There was no help. Help from whom?” asks a frustrated Patel, who had explained that his store had also recently experienced a small fire after the storm, which added to his predicament. “Store owners helped each other. We all had to help each other. I pumped out my own basement. I did the cleanup by myself, there was no monitory help, nothing; not from FEMA, SBA, City, State, nothing,”
With summer approaching, Patel is also facing the reality of the threat on businesses being posed by the suspended train services, which has still yet to be restored, and the closed beaches; the trains, usually carrying waves of people each summer to the beaches in Rockaway are one of the few most practical ways to get into the area. The combination of these two factors will cause an indefinite revenue loss for all local businesses that rely on the summer shoppers.
“The state needs to do more for Rockaways. The need to help rebuild, have grants, they need to help get the homeless people off the street. They are bringing the neighborhood down and affecting the businesses,” says Patel.
With plans to revamp the boardwalk to resemble Jersey Shore being proposed by the city and state still up in the air, none of the storeowners and locals is sure what to expect this upcoming season.
“That’s a terrible idea. If they do that than those stores that are only going to be opened a couple of months out of the year will be taking valuable costumers away from the small business owners in the area. It will hurt the community,” explains local resident Mary McKinley
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, residents hope to see the rebirth of Rogoff’s emerge as they begin to plan their grand reopening set for some time in July. It would be the first time that they have been opened since Hurricane Sandy unleashed her wrath on the iconic storefront.
“The main goal we want to reach besides reopening is to get the store back to the point where we can make business and offer a good reliable store for the community that has supported us from the very beginning,” says Patel.