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Storm damage varies by biz

September 20, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A wonderful thing happened Sept. 15 - power came back to many Lehigh Acres businesses located along the corridors of Homestead Road and Lee Boulevard.

For some, it was little consolation, as the storm did its damage, ruining merchandise and damaging buildings, meaning that even with power, there was no way anybody could come back to work.

Business owners had different tales to tell in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and few of them had a happy ending. Among them was Joe's Cafe, at 43 Homestead Road N., which had much of the front of the building torn apart. Boarded up as of this past weekend, pieces of glass still lie on the floor.

Article Photos

The inside of Joe’s Cafe, at 43 Homestead Road N., with the windows boarded up Sept. 15, following the storm.

Chasity Golio, who owns the restaurant with her husband, said they had to throw away about $5,000 worth of food despite having a generator and ice to try to keep everything cold.

"Our food system got ripped off the top of the building, which created a big hole in the roof, which caused the windows to blow out because it created a wind tunnel," she said. "Even if we boarded up, plywood would not hold up 500-pound windows."

Golio said the cafe will reopen, but the roof, ceiling and windows must be repaired, which will take time. They had insurance so the couple's employees will get paid, which is a burden off of their minds.

A few doors down at The Girls and Men of Fashion - a combination clothing store and travel agency - employee Anna Rodriguez walked around the business. Piles of clothing were on the floor, ruined from flooding and the intense rain that came in through the windows. The front office was soaking wet.

"We took the water out, but you still smell the humidity and the mold," she said. "We have power now, but can't reopen until we talk to the insurance company. It was really bad."

"We're without work now," Rodriguez added. How are we going to pay our bills?"

Not every business in the shopping center had power back by Sept. 15. Naples Vapor, an e-cigarette business at the far end of the plaza, was still in the dark. Despite that, the store was able to reopen Sept. 12, albeit with cash only transactions.

Jake Cox, an employee, said there was roof damage and flooding, with the carpeting still wet from the rain following more rain on Sept. 13.

"We're making sales, trying to take care of the customers that are in need," he said. "I walked up Monday to check things out and we've been open since Tuesday. It's been slow, but people have been getting their supplies."

Down the road, Delta Lopez was washing her sister's hair at Final Touch Barber and Beauty Salon, at 1111 Homestead Road N., Suite 23. The salon was open, and the lights and air conditioning were on.

Lopez, who has owned the business for 12 years, said she felt blessed that she was able to reopen after arriving at the shop that afternoon to find the lights on.

"When I walked in, I was so happy. I was even able to do some clients and I wasn't expecting it," she said. "When I saw it, I was crying. I couldn't believe it."

Lopez planned to sleep at the salon because her house was still without power.



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