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Area businesses getting back on their feet

September 20, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Jan Genovee, owner of Bianca's Ristorante at 16251 N. Cleveland Ave., was thrilled to finally be able to reopen for dinner on Saturday, albeit with a limited menu and cash only.

This was the typical reaction from North Fort Myers business owners as they slowly started to reopen their doors after nearly a week or more.

Hurricane Irma whipped through the area last week and did damage to many area businesses, knocking out power for days and causing damage to the roofs and interiors of stores.

Article Photos

Despite damage to signs and property, most businesses are back in operation following Hurricane Irma.


At Bianca's, there was damage done to the plaza's roof and they were forced to throw thousands of dollars in food away as well as do lots of cleanup.

"We emptied every cooler, freezer and refrigerator. It was heartbreaking the amount of food we had to throw away. It filled a Dumpster," Genovee said.

Power was restored Wednesday. The following morning, the entire staff of Bianca's went to work to clean up for the reopening, including deep cleaning the entire kitchen and restocking shelves with whatever they could get quickly.

"We spent literally a day and a half on hands and knees cleaning the kitchen. We got a first shipment of food and we'll be on a limited menu, but it will be our basic core items," Genovee said. "We'll have pizza and our full bar will be available. We'll see what happens."

Genovee said people have been calling, while workers have gotten the word out through flyers in nearby areas such as Heron's Glen to let people know of the impending reopening. They also put up handmade signs on the side of the road.

Genovee said the faster they were able to get open, the better. She said she was chomping at the bit to get going again.

"It's heartbreaking because our staff isn't getting any income, so the quickest we can get open the better. We were looking to open on Sunday, but we pulled out all the stops," Genovee said.

Independently owned places weren't the only ones affected - even places like McDonalds were on a limited menu, leaving those having a Big Mac Attack having to settle for a cheeseburger.

At the Weaver's Corner Shopping Center, Englund's Deli, which is in the process of an ownership change, had most of their offerings, but with cash only transactions.

Christine Marie Crofton, an employee, said she stayed in the store while the storm raged, which was terrifying. Even worse, there were looters in the parking lot just an hour after the eye passed through.

"Most of the people who own the mom and pop stores here stayed during the storm. We didn't lose much product, and we donated most of what we had to the homeless. We only lost some roast beef because I didn't know we left it," Crofton said. "Everything else was deep frozen."

Crofton said the power was restored on Wednesday, but went back out at some point at Jax Diner, the post office and the Chinese restaurant.

The store was cleaned and it re-opened Thursday. Business has been slow as the phone lines were still down and few knew they were open.

Across the way, Jennie and John Hall, of J&J Appliance Repair. They also stayed at the shop while their home saw six trees fall. At the shop, they saw little damage, and they were up and running on Wednesday.

"We've been real busy servicing appliances. We've stayed here, but the AC went down and it gets hot without windows," Jennie said. "It's been good here. We have a couch in the back room for comfort."

They said they planned to return home when the power returned.

At Str8line Tat2, a tattoo parlor at United Plaza, 13971 N. Cleveland Ave. No. 3, was among the lucky ones, as power returned Monday night and they were back in business Wednesday, with little or no damage.

Joseph Preston, a company employee, said they closed early, packed their gear and got out of there, staying at a friend's house nearby where there was higher ground.

"Business has been steady the last couple days. The regulars are coming in and we've been getting people from out of town," Preston said. "The week before the storm we were dead. Tattoos were the last thing on people's minds. We're hoping with season coming business will pick up."



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