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Irene Took Economic Toll on Some Downtown Businesses

Many stores and restaurants closed for days following hurricane.

Downtown Westfield Corporation Executive Director Sherry Cronin said the effects of Hurricane Irene on the downtown area were devastating. She and her coworkers spoke to many managers and owners of stores and restaurants and said everyone was distraught after either losing power or being flooded. Since most businesses did not regain power until Tuesday afternoon, the financial losses were huge, she said.  

Sunday and Monday were really bad,” Cronin said. “What hurt them the most was having no power.”

The majority of the restaurants with the exception of Mario’s Deli and Casa Di Pizza all lost power and had to throw out all of their food. Luckily, most of the shops were up and running by Tuesday night in time for the Jazz Festival, Cronin said.

Co-owner of Mario’s Deli Valerio Zuena said he was nervous the restaurant would get flooded or lose power, which did not happen. Being one of the few places open during the storm was truly a blessing, he said. This is normally a very slow time of the year with many families on vacations, however Irene brought them money instead of water, he said.

“We thought we were going to lose power,” Zuena said. “We just assumed that we would get flooded.”

In preparing for the hurricane, Zuena and his co-owner, his brother Mario, spoke to the insurance company and found out anything that was destroyed would be covered. In case they lost power, they put bags of ice in the deli case. On Sunday (while Irene was flooding Union County), they went to the store to see if it was flooded or lost power, but when they saw it didn’t, they stayed open all day and even provided the police with food.  

“We were very busy Monday (after the storm),” he said. “As bad as the storm was, it was the best thing that happened to us.”    

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