Wilmington Businesses Struggle To Reopen
10/28/11 5:50PM By Nancy Eve Cohen  Download MP3
(Host) Two months ago today, Tropical Storm Irene decimated Wilmington. Now, more than half of the downtown businesses are still closed.
VPR's Nancy Cohen reports that even as some businesses re-open the owners say they need the other businesses to thrive...
(Cohen) The Deerfield River that flooded Wilmington's streets is back in its banks. But the town has a long way to go. Some businesses are still boarded up. Others are under construction.
Inside the Village Pub, owner Raymond Finnegan is doing one more task before opening his doors; hanging up the menu.
(Finnegan) "French fries, onion rings and then we have chicken tenders."
(Cohen) Finnegan says he didn't think he'd open this quickly. The Pub is one of about 12 businesses out of 40 that have reopened, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
(Finnegan) "The only thing we can do is open and see what happens. We're hoping but we don't know. We're just taking our chances".
(Cohen) The bar is freshly varnished. There's new carpet and paint, a new sink and dishes. Everything was awash in mud. Three weeks ago, Manager Ginny Blake gave me a tour of the basement which sits right on the river.
(Blake) "Just be careful going down the stairs. The water, you can imagine, was up an inch and a half into the bar. So the basement which is probably 8 or 10 feet high was totally full with water and everything was just thrashing around down here and it was pretty devastating".
(Blake) "How you doing?" (Customer) "Budweiser, please."
(Cohen) Now Blake's back behind the bar. Her first customer of the day was Bob Brown who splits his time between Connecticut and Wilmington.
(Brown) "It feels like home. There's been a hole in my life the last two months not having here to visit."
(Cohen) Brown, like others helped clean up after the flood
(Brown) "It's good to have this back. Obviously not everything's back in town yet, but this, you know, one step along the way, one more step."
(Cohen) While this business has opened at least seven others aren't sure whether they'll open or not. Mary Jane Finnegan has owned this bar for 27 years ago. She says the fact that other businesses are closed doesn't mean she gets more business.
(Mary Jane Finnegan) "It's not going to be easy not to have other businesses open here because the more that's going on, the more people that come."
(Cohen) In other words in Wilmington businesses thrive off each other.
(Finnegan) "People come in and ask where to go for this? Where's the best place to buy maple syrup? Right down to the simple fact if somebody has had a little bit too much to drink we call each other and say ‘so and so's had enough tonight don't serve them anymore'. And we've done that as a community forever."
(Cohen) This bar attracts a lot of regulars like Joe Parenti from Mount Snow, who typically comes in three or four nights a week after work.
(Parenti) "Basically this is like my spot. And it's great to see it open. I'm psyched."
(Cohen) Parenti is hopeful this opening will inspire others.
(Parenti) "It just shows that if we just all work together and keep together we're going to rebuild everything as best we can".
(Cohen) Those who are rebuilding are speeding up their efforts, racing against winter to open their doors by the holiday season. But two businesses have closed for good, and another is closing this Sunday.
For VPR News, I'm Nancy Cohen.