Businesses Get Creative After Sandy

María R. Martínez and her son Rubén improvised a taco stand in front of their Lower East Side business on Avenue A. (Photo by Carolina Ledezma via El Diario)

Restaurant and store owners in the Lower East Side, a neighborhood hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, concocted ways to keeps business going, El Diario La Prensa reported. The story was translated from Spanish.

Maria R. Martinez, a Mexican business owner, and her son Ruben lost more an $3,000 worth of food that they had bought before Hurricane Sandy in anticipation of not being able to get it later. But they never considered their store on the Lower East Side would be without power for so many days.

After running the Zaragoza Mexican Deli Grocery on Avenue A for 12 years, they had never seen the degree of damage caused by flooding in the area. Luckily, the water didn’t get inside their shop.

To keep their business going, they set up a temporary counter on the sidewalk, where they are selling homemade tacos, beans and rice for $10 a plate.

“We have a fridge with ice to keep the ingredients cool. We cook with gas at my son’s home on 12th Street, and I’ve been asking my relatives in Brooklyn to help out if they have electricity, so I can make the mole and green salsa,” Martinez explained.

Like the Zaragoza Mexican grocery, the owner and employees of El Rinconcito, located on 10th Street and Avenue C, have kept their doors open. Although the neighborhood was severely flooded and dozens of businesses suffered immeasurable losses, El Rinconcito was not affected and still has gas and water.

“My boss, Pedro Rodriguez, got the idea that with car batteries we could lit up the business and that’s how we’re operating,” said Rosa Montesinos. The prices have not changed much, the employee said.

The majority of businesses in Loisaida were getting ready to reopen.

In local bars, where cases of liquor were kept in basements, groups of young men checked to see what merchandise could be saved and dried furniture with rags and hair dryers, while pumping water out of flooded lower levels.

At Casa Adela, one of the classic Puerto Rican restaurants that has served the neighborhood for more than 40 years, Adela herself struggled with the gas burners and oven to make pernil (roast pork) and chicharrones (crackling chicken) just like she always has.

“We lost food, but luckily we didn’t have much damage, and that’s why we’ve been working since the day after the storm,” said employee Justa Viafara, and added that prices haven’t changed, except for coffee, which is now $2. “It’s chaotic, but we’re managing,” said a clearly exhausted Viafara.

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