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Sandy One Year Later: Rockaway Merchants Form Strong Bond As Customers Return

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Sandy shutdown an important business corridor in Rockaway Park a year ago. One year later, almost all of the businesses on Beach 116th Street have reopened with some help from the government and their "can-do" attitudes. NY1's Rocco Vertuccio filed the following report.

Spirits are high at Tom Hughes' spirits and wine shop in Rockaway Park.

"We had pretty good foot traffic over the summer," said Hughes.

A year after Hurricane Sandy, his Station Liquor Store on Beach 116th Street is making a comeback. Sandy flooded his store with more than four feet of water. He lost $250,000 worth of inventory. After 35 years in business Hughes had to start over.

"I didn't think we would make it through this year," he said.

Business is almost back to where it was before Sandy.

Down the street, Beach Cleaners has also ironed out most of its Sandy problems. The Hurricane left owner Daniel Park with more than $50,000 in damages. He never considered leaving the area.

"I love Rockaway I don't want to live anywhere, so I love here," said Daniel Park of Beach Cleaners.

Almost all of the businesses Sandy destroyed or damaged on Beach 116th Street are back in business. They did it through government loans and grants and their own insurance. The city's Department of Small Business Services gave out $500,000 in grants to replace storefronts and to make other improvements all over this business district.

"What has happened here on Beach 116th Street my hope is it can be replicated time and time again in many other neighborhoods," said Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Robert Walsh.

The business owners say the corridor is now actually stronger than before. For the first time, they have formed a merchants association to help market and promote the area.

Now that most of the businesses have reopened the next part of the recovery is to get new businesses to move into the neighborhood. They are starting to see signs of that now too.

But there are still challenges ahead. Some question when will the remaining empty stores reopen. It will take years for business owners to repay their loans, but there is optimism in the neighborhood.

"We have Rockaway in our blood. We said we are going to give it a shot, if the people come back, we're gonna come back," said Daniel Mirkin of Mirkin Vision.

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