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Six Months After Sandy: Queens Cobbler Who Saw Store Destroyed Regains Footing

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The road to recovery had been especially hard for an elderly Rockaway Park business owner who lost his entire store during Hurricane Sandy, but after months of struggling to re-open his store he finally did. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

Leon Ganapolsky spends his day repairing shoes and looking for old customers, but every time he glances out the store window he sees mounds of dirt where his 32-year-old shoe repair business once stood.


"One day, I lost everything," Ganapolsky said.

Ganapolsky opened the store in 1980, just two years after moving to the U.S. from the Ukraine. But on October 29, Hurricane Sandy destroyed the shop and several other mom and pop businesses on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

"I lost everything. My machinery, tools, equipment," Ganapolsky said.

First came the flood waters and then the fire that burned for days in Rockaway Park.

Sixteen commercial and residential buildings burned to the ground after fire marshals said a utility wire fell on one of them. Some of the business that were not burned were broken into. The neighborhood was in bad shape after the storm and Ganapolsky watched for months as the city cleared the lot. He also waited several months for his insurance or his landlord's to pay for the damage, but that never happened.

"Everybody deny me," Ganapolsky said.

FEMA told him to apply for a low interest business loan but Ganapolsky said he cannot afford it. So, at 72 years old, he's starting over from scratch.

"It's very hard," Ganapolsky said.

He opened a new store a few weeks ago with the help of some friends. Most of his customers don't know that he's back in business, but they are slowly coming back.

"The work was excellent and I'm glad he's back on the block. Yes I'm glad," said one customer.

Ganapolsky said he too is happy to be back.

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