We checked in with a few Florida retailers to find out how they are doing after Hurricane Irma.
Letty Nowak, Key West, one of the hardest hit areas of Florida.
She and her business partner have five stores there – three Venter Surf & Sports, one Southernmost Surf Shop, and one Key West Sunshine Club.
Letty went to the Hyatt Regency in Orlando for Surf Expo and was stuck there until today, Tuesday. She answered some questions for us about what she is hearing from Key West.
What you are hearing from officials about when you can come back?
Letty Nowak: “There is no word on when we can come back as of this morning. I am guessing it may be another three to seven days before residents and business owners are allowed back in and two to four weeks before tourists will be allowed back to the Keys.”
Have you heard anything about the state of your stores and your home?
Letty: “My business partner, Marius, is down there and called from a landline to say the stores and the house weathered the storm and are in perfect condition.
“However, he did say the Key West infrastructure is in poor condition. Most of the large trees took down power lines and some buildings, there is limited water, no electricity, no cell service, and many of the marinas lost their docks. The marina in front of two of my stores at the Margaritaville Resort has lost all of its docks.
“Hundreds of boats are also scattered around the Key West shores. I will say though that Key West also got off easy compared to the rest of the Keys so we are fortunate and need to work together to rebuild the middle and upper Keys as well.”
How are your spirits holding up?
Letty: “I am a little shot. I have been on edge and in a waiting game for over a week. However, the good news about the shops and knowing we can rebuild Key West in the next few months makes me feel a lot better.
“We will work hard to have a normal season once we are back up and running. The uncertainty and unfortunate speculation building up to the storm and no contact afterwards is what is so exhausting.”
Are the stores in Key West your main business, and if so, how could this potentially impact you?
Letty: “I do have my art career as income as well as the stores, but the shops are a great income for me.
“The potential impact from Irma will come from the few months it takes to get back open and back to normal. Tourists also have to be allowed back in, of course. I am hoping the media will focus on our wonderful Keys community and the rebuilding efforts of our islands.”
Is your hotel in Orlando filled with people who evacuated?
Letty: “Oh my gosh - yes! The Hyatt Regency on International Drive was like a huge ‘Adult Lock-In’ – kind of like how they ‘lock in’ the kids at prom night in high school by offering lots of games and activities on site.
“The ballrooms were set up with activities like movies, hula hoops, and billiards, another ball room was a bar, and one was for food because the restaurants in the hotel closed.
“The hotel was packed with people and the 500 dogs they brought – and I'm not kidding about the amount of dogs The hotel did an amazing job. We did not lose power or Wi-Fi the entire time and people were in good spirits.”
It sounds like you are finally leaving Orlando today?
Letty: “I think I'm coming back to California tomorrow – I am lucky I have an art studio and house there.
“Marius said not to come back down to Key West until right before tourists are let back in since we can't open the stores until that happens anyway. He says it is not a nice place to be right now so I guess I will go paint!
“I'm lucky I don't have to go down there to rebuild the shops. We are so fortunate.”
BC Surf and Sport, headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale
“Damage at home and at stores was mostly limited to trees, branches, and fencing down.
“All Florida locations have been closed since Friday to give staff time to prepare property, and evacuate. We are planning to get a few stores open Tuesday. As of Monday evening, we had power out at Deerfield and Fort Lauderdale, so those are iffy at the moment. If necessary, the next step will be to get generator power set up for computers and basic lighting. We're still hoping for the best.
“All in all, we are blessed that everyone is healthy, and none of the stores appear to have major damage. September's going to be a tough month, but I think things should be close to normal in the next two to three weeks.
“We have power at my house (which is rare right now), so we have a lot of friends and family camping here with five ‘extra’ dogs.
“Feeling very fortunate so far, and hoping for the best in the next few weeks.”
Maui Nix, headquarters in Daytona Beach
“We have all six stores closed. We don't have power at the stores or at most of our homes so opening isn't an option.
“I've heard some crazy number of residents (4.5-8 million) without power so it could take a while.
“Destin (in Northwest Florida) may open Tuesday but Florida is kind of a mess from Miami to Jacksonville. We suffered some minor damage to signs but haven't entered all our stores yet to assess the damage.
“We lost several days before the storm prepping and now the aftermath. The challenge is our locals are consumed with getting their homes and lives back in order and shopping for surf goods won't be a priority.
“Tourists will sit back and wait for us to get back to normal and even when we are ready and open for business the sensationalism of all the news will give the impression that it's much worse than it is. That's our reality.
“What we will all need once we get going again is for customers to come out and shop.”
Aqua East, headquartered in Jacksonville, a city that experienced a lot of flooding
Co-owner Shauna Forsyth Moore:
“Thankfully we are all okay, we have very minimal damage to some siding and a little leak.
“We closed both locations from Saturday to Monday due to mandatory evacuations in place and everyone needing to prep but we are open for business today in Neptune Beach, where we got power back at 7 p.m. Monday night.
“Our St. Augustine location is still without power but hopefully we will be open soon once it gets restored.
“Jacksonville had some devastating flooding more inland downtown on the river and our prayers are with them. The way the storm came up the state we didn't see a bad surge on the beachside of Jacksonville.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those retailers down south that were in the direct path of Irma.
“Hurricane season is a lot more fun when we just get waves and the storms stay offshore! I'm praying that's how the rest of the season will end up.”
Ron Jon, headquarters in Cocoa Beach
“We closed nine stores during the storm. A couple of them reopened Monday, four more of them should be back open by mid-week.
“We should know about the others later in the week. We are still waiting for water and power to be restored at the office.”
Island Water Sports, Deerfield Beach
Co-owner Cheyne Cottrell:
“The shark (on the front of the building) is still standing!
“We're stoked, we had no real damage at the shop. We had some signs and light boxes break, but they were planned to come down with our upcoming exterior remodel anyway.
“Our power and internet is out, and they are saying seven to 10 days until it is restored.
“Waves were really good Monday morning so it was good to go surf after the storm.”
IWS decided to open today even though it does not have power and is using generators.
The western part of Orange County unexpectedly ended up in the eye of the storm, which is where the Duvalls live.
“The store opened Tuesday morning with only a roof leak or two, but no real damage.
“The lake near our house flooded and the water was within 25 feet of coming in.
“We had minor damage but it was really, really scary. When the winds hit 100 mph for 20 minutes, I thought we were in real trouble.
“Everyone I know in the state has been affected and it will be awhile until things return to normal.”