A Queens shoemaker is getting back into the groove of things a year after Hurricane Sandy destroyed his life's work and savings. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Starting over isn't easy at any age, but at 72 years old Leon Ganapolsky is slowly piecing his life back together after Hurricane Sandy.
"I lost my apartment in Sheepshead Bay at my house. I lost my car and I lost my business," Ganapolsky said.
But he did not lose his spirit to rebuild even though it would cost him dearly.
"All my retirement that I saved, my retirement, is gone to the repairs," Ganapolsky said.
Ganapolsky fixed his home and got a new car, but he couldn't salvage his 32-year-old shoe repair business. It flooded then caught fire. NY1 saw the flames while covering the devastation on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The area looked like a war zone, but the flames were the station's main source of light.
Fire marshals said 16 commercial and residential buildings burned after a utility wire struck one of them. The store Ganapolsky began renting just two years after moving to the U.S. from the Ukraine was no more.
Ganapolsky immediately sought financial help to re-open but he says his insurance company denied his claim and government agencies only offered him loans. So he gave up. Five months later, a building owner across from the old store offered him a deal.
"He gave me one month free rent, and thank God my best friends helped me, my son helped me," Ganapolsky said.
When NY1 interviewed him in April the business was still struggling. Then the story aired.
"NY1 helped me very, very much I appreciate it," Ganapolsky said.
The story helped attract customers who brought in shoes, money and even donations from strangers. The beloved shoemaker says his business is 80 percent back.
As for the old store's burnt out location, the city cleared the lot and the land owners are now selling it as one property.