Manhattan Businesses Struggle Without Power

Fawzy Abdelwahid, the owner of B&H Restaurant in the East Village, said he had to throw out $4,000 of food spoiling in his refrigerator. His is one of many small businesses impacted by power outages in Manhattan.


AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: And in lower Manhattan, it was another day without electricity. That's taking a toll on businesses that have been shuttered since the storm. No electricity means no lights, no credit card machines and no refrigerators to keep food fresh.

NPR's Ailsa Chang checked in with some shops and restaurants that are waiting desperately for power.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: There's about $4,000 worth of garbage outside B&H Restaurant in the East Village. Twenty trash bags piled in a small mountain on the sidewalk. Fawzy Abdelwahid, the owner, has just spent the last eight hours cleaning, and dumping out what's spoiling in his lifeless kitchen.

FAWZY ABDELWAHID: Soups, cheese, fish, vegetables, lasagna...

CHANG: The power vanished after Monday night, and Abdelwahid estimates he's losing about $2,000 every day he's been closed. He says he has only $5,000 in savings total for him, his wife and kid. And it's the beginning of the month now, bills are due. So he says he's probably going to be calling his mother in Egypt to borrow money.

ABDELWAHID: I cannot afford more than a week. More than a week, it's going to be too much. I cannot afford more than - because this is my only job.

CHANG: Even if B&H started serving a limited menu, like some other restaurants nearby, where would the customers be? Lots of people from the neighborhood who are sick of living without electricity or hot water have left. Just ask Jeff Johnson. He's trying to resuscitate The Sock Man. It's a shop in the East Village that sells lots of socks.

If people weren't going to venture inside a dark store, Johnson thought, why not set up a table full of socks outside.

JEFF JOHNSON: You gotta try it. You gotta see what happens, you know? Because you're tired of being home.

CHANG: But by the end of the afternoon, Johnson had sold only three pairs of socks. The few people sauntering down the street right now, they're not looking to retail shop. They're out for water, non-perishable food, or just a place to recharge their phones. This has all been really bad timing for Joshua Suzanne, who owns a vintage store called Rags-A-GoGo in the West Village.

JOSHUA SUZANNE: I'll be very honest with you. When I closed my store on Saturday, I did over three grand that day, and that was just the beginning of what was about to be the Halloween extravaganza. And I really mean it. Anybody that does anything that is colorful, bright and costumey kicks at this time.

CHANG: She says she needed the money from this Halloween week to keep her in business during January and February when things get slow. Other businesses are taking an even bigger hit than Suzanne is. Take the Battery Garden Restaurant in lower Manhattan. It was flooded under two feet of seawater. If two weddings don't go on this weekend as planned, the owner will be out $80,000.


CHANG: The wooden dance floor is now warped after being submerged for a day. The kitchen still reeks of floodwater mixed with gallons of grease that spilled during the storm. But Paul Nicaj, who owns the place, says he's ready to open as soon as ConEd powers back up. Thanks to a few employees who walked to work the day after the storm to help clean up all the debris.

PAUL NICAJ: Most of these people came all the way from Bronx. They came here...

CHANG: Some people walked from the Bronx?

NICAJ: Some people walked from 240th Street, yes.

CHANG: That's about 15 miles. About 80 more employees are still waiting to come back to work. Nicaj stayed planted in his restaurant all night during the storm, even though the city had ordered him to evacuate. He says he ran around like a maniac sandbagging the perimeter. A marble table fell on his foot and broke his toe.

NICAJ: When you break a toe you can't do nothing, just taped them and go on with it. Wear a little wider shoe.

CHANG: It's the least of his worries now. He's popping painkillers every four hours and just beginning to assess the damage in lost business. By the time all the repairs are done, he thinks he'll be out a few hundred thousand dollars.

Ailsa Chang, NPR News.