Behind the Scenes at a Small Business: Lessons From Sandy
(Editor's note: This is the ninth installment in our "Winning the Card Game" series. Dana Norman and Michele Rothberg acquired discount greeting card store Card$mart in June 2011. They agreed to let TheStreet follow them for one year as they experience the ups and downs of running a business. Based on advice from their accountant, the owners have declined to share revenue and profit figures.)
PLAINVIEW, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- "I almost wished we lost power. Opening up was painful," Card$mart co-owner Dana Norman tells TheStreet two weeks after Hurricane Sandy forced her way through New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and parts of Connecticut on Oct. 29, leaving widespread damage, flooding and power outages.
The independent card shop is located in an upscale shopping center in the middle of Long Island, so it was far enough from the dangerous storm surges that slammed the southern coast of the island. And, luckily, Card$mart is in one of the few areas that did not lose power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter that hit 10 days later. Most residents and commercial businesses, even if they had no damage from the category 1 hurricane, were without power for several days or weeks.
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>>> Bricks and Mortar Stores Thrive in Internet World Norman was already expecting weaker October sales compared with last year, due to the Jewish holidays that fell in September instead of October in 2012, but also because Halloween isn't a big card-buying holiday. She also says Designer Greetings, located in Edison, N.J., was closed, which meant a slowdown in shipments. "It wasn't like we had much business that we needed [cards]. Any pocket that was empty, we just used our filler cards," Norman says. Card$mart's shipment of holiday Thanksgiving chocolate was also delayed. Norman says she usually purchases the popular chocolate molded as turkeys from The Madelaine Chocolate Co., which is headquartered in The Rockaways, a hard-hit area. Norman says she hasn't been able to get through to the company and ended up purchasing more expensive chocolates from a third-party distributor. A note on its website says the hurricane has forced The Madelaine Chocolate Co. to temporarily close its doors. One of the biggest lessons Norman learned from the storm was to make sure the store has proper insurance coverage for natural disasters. Norman says she took home the store's insurance policy on the day of the storm, intending to look it over. (She acknowledges she wasn't fully aware of the coverage.) And even though the store had no damage, with the crazy weather patterns as they are, Norman plans to review coverage options with fresh eyes. Norman says her main concern was coverage in case the front display window was broken. "As it turned out, we were down by a few hundred dollars from last October in terms of sales. Because we have so much more merchandise, the number should have been higher. The goal is to grow every year, and I think it was the hurricane [that hurt revenue]," Norman says. As Long Island slowly resumed power in the second week following the storm, business was picking up again. Still, Norman says "you never get those days back." -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Follow @LKulikowski To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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