NEW YORK—For a while after Superstorm Sandy, Midland Pharmacy owners Lou Spadafora and Jerry Della Ragione were not sure if they could ever move back into their old storefront, which had been completely destroyed. They didn’t have insurance and were denied twice by the Small Business Administration when they tried to apply for a disaster loan. Many other small business and residents packed up and left, but Spadafora and Ragion didn’t want to leave the Staten Island neighborhood they had both been serving for nearly two decades.
More than a year after the disaster, the pharmacy is finally up and running again at its original spot.
On Monday, the two owners and US Representative Michael Grimm cut the ribbon for the reopening of the pharmacy.
“This is extremely significant. Midland Pharmacy is part of the heart and soul of Midland Beach,” said Rep. Grimm. “You can go anywhere in this neighborhood, everyone knowns Midland Pharmacy.”
Spadafora and Ragion went to pharmacy school together and opened Midland Pharmacy after they graduated. The shop has since become a vital part of the community. Spadafora said there were thousands of people in their computer database before it was destroyed in the flood. The next pharmacy around was more than a mile away.
After it closed down, the neighborhood reached out to the owners, asking them to come back. Spadafora and Ragione rented a small space close to the wrecked store and began the tough recovery process.
“We had about seven and a half feet of water in here. All the way through,” Spadafora said, recalling Sandy’s impact on the pharmacy.
All the inventory was destroyed and the building-which was old and could not handle the flooding of the saltwater and the movement caused by the hurricane-was completely wrecked. The pharmacy owners had to demolish the space and rebuild it from scratch, which proved to be an expensive and time consuming process. They had to take a construction loan and dip into their cash reserve.
“The amount of loss was very high for us, so we needed some help, and currently we are still trying to obtain the right amount so we can take care of everything,” Ragione said.
City funding also helped the shop get back on its feet, but it took a while to kick in.
“There’s programs out there, it’s just taking a very long time for them to hit-the Build it Back, the Housing and Urban Development grants and loans. It’s a long time,” said Spadafora. “Thank God we withstood it, we made it this far.”
Today the interior of the pharmacy is pristine and welcoming, but still relatively empty. The owners said they are working on getting completely settled and have yet to fully recover from the disaster.
“Obviously it’s still an empty shell but we’re going to start growing from here,” said Ragione.
“This reopening today is inspiration,” said Rep. Grimm. “It’s a breath of hope—that you have to hang on the best you can. Help is coming.”
Yi Yang is a special correspondent in New York.