When the basements of about six shops, a cafe, and a gallery in East Hampton Village flooded on Feb. 26, it was bad news at the toughest time of the year. For the most part, the businesses affected were locally run, not part of large corporations able to withstand easily this sort of disruption. Compounding the damage was the length of time water stood in the buildings’ basements. Though the flooding was discovered just after 8 on that Sunday morning, because it took PSEG Long Island many long hours to finally shut off electrical service to the area, crews could not begin pumping the water out for nearly 11 hours. Losses have yet to be fully tallied.
Among the businesses closed for the time being and with destroyed inventory are Gubbins Running Ahead sporting goods, Bonne Nuit lingerie, Valentino fashions, and Colm Rowan Fine Art. Insurance may help but cannot cover the entire scope of the disaster and its deeply personal impacts. Mr. Rowan of the gallery told a reporter, “The problem is that I have 40 years of art dealing under my belt and many of the pictures that were submerged were treasures that I’ve had along the way.” Gubbins being shut for the time being has been another kind of disruption, as it was the only easily accessible place for kids’ sneakers, balls, bats, gloves, and last-minute missing pieces of team uniforms.
Even in the Gucci-Prada-Balenciaga Gulch that East Hampton Village has nearly entirely become, small businesses still matter a lot. When profits stay in the community and salaries go to pay for local food, housing, and entertainment, the benefit multiplies. A variety of retail and dining options add vitality to downtowns; when mom and pop leave, if just for a time, they take a lot of the life of a community with them.
We wish all of the businesses the best of luck with the ongoing repairs and hope that when they eventually reopen — as we very much hope they do — the public will respond with enthusiasm and welcome them back with the sound of loudly ringing registers.