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Clint Engel

NE retailers hit with more challenging weather

SHIP BOTTOM, N.J. - A nor'easter dumped more than a foot of snow on some parts of New Jersey and New York last week, causing more trouble for retailers in a region still struggling to recover from last month's superstorm Sandy.
     Reached just before the snowstorm was set to hit, Oskar Huber Furniture & Design Co-President Bob Huber offered an update on his 27,000-squarefoot showroom here on New Jersey's Long Beach Island.
     "The entire first floor was flooded and, in portions of the showroom (the water) was as deep as 28 inches," he said. "All the furniture on the ground level of the store is no good."
     Workers were ripping up carpet and tearing out drywall so the structure could dry out before rebuilding begins. But that job came to a halt as the nor'easter approached and officials ordered people off the island again. Huber said he expected to be back to work there by the weekend.
     He didn't have an estimate on the damage yet, but said the company has business interruption insurance and additional coverage for flooding covering the building and contents. He said insurance adjusters hadn't made it to the store yet.
     "We're asking our vendors for help getting new samples back into the pipeline," he said. "We haven't placed any new orders yet, but we will look for help from them for getting back in business."
     Huber said he already has seen early support from suppliers including A.R.T. Furniture.
     Dayton, Ohio, N.J.-based Crest Furniture had all 14 of its Value City and Ashley Furniture HomeStores in the state open with power again following both storms, but it hasn't been easy, said CEO Simon Kaplan.
     "We didn't have physical damage, but the power outage was terrible," he said. Kaplan said the company "took a chance" this past Wednesday, calling everyone in before the nor'easter hit and, and finished its deliveries before getting eight to 10 inches of snow.
     He said the state did a good job of clearing roads and that the retailer was delivering again by Thursday morning after the storm.
     "My people have been very cooperative - extremely so," Kaplan said, noting that employees are putting in long hours to help the company get back to work, even though about a third of them are still without power at home.
     Kaplan said Crest has donated furniture and mattresses to organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, and is working with Sealy to share the cost of donating more bedding. The stores also will offer discounts to any assistance organization that comes in with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
     As for business, "I think it's going to rebound," Kaplan said. But how quickly that happens will depend on getting the power back to all residents.
     One of the retailers hardest hit by Sandy was Seaside Furniture in Toms River, N.J. Co-owner Lara Lindner said everything in the store was destroyed.
     While the company's two Gelco stores fared better, Lindner said in an email to Furniture/Today that "we lost our biggest and most successful store that was only 14 months old. At the moment, it's complete chaos, sadness, and work to be done," she said, but added, "We will rebuild!"

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