Restaurant Owners Share Impact Of Florence

By Jessica Maurer, posted Sep 26, 2018
Each with three businesses to run, Miguel Villasenor and James Smith had major concerns as to how they would fare during Hurricane Florence.
Villasenor, who owns and operates Los Portales Supermarket, Los Portales Taqueria, and Tequila Comida & Cantina, said he prepared in advance by requesting a large commercial freezer from U.S. Foods, one of his suppliers. The donated freezer, operated by a generator while the power was out, allowed Villasenor to save almost his entire inventory.
A generator also allowed him to maintain power at the supermarket, which reopened Sept. 16, just two days after the storm made landfall. Los Portales was without power for four days, but Tequila Comida & Cantina was only without power for about six hours, allowing it to be among the first restaurants in the area to begin serving the public.
“Most of our employees were still out of town, so we had all of our family members pitching in, some of whom know nothing about working in restaurants,” Miguel Villasenor said. “We were like chickens without heads, but the customers were very patient.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a positive outcome for James Smith, owner of Fork n Cork, Smoke on the Water, and Bone & Bean BBQ. Smith experienced more significant power outages at all three of his locations, as well as some minor water damage at both Fork n Cork and Bone & Bean BBQ, which caused him to be closed for over a week.
The biggest impact, Smith said, was the loss of thousands of dollars worth of inventory.
“Even with a generator, you can only save so much,” Smith said. “And losing a quarter of the month’s income is significant for myself as well as many of my employees.”
Smith estimates that his restaurants are currently doing about 40 percent of the business they normally do. For now, he is working on filing for insurance benefits and re-supplying. He’s also urging the community to support local restaurants.
“I know that fast-food franchises are convenient, and some of them are locally owned, but when you really look at what you’re spending, you can get a much better value at many independently owned restaurants that could really use the support right now.” Smith said.
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