Shops trying to stay open

By ALISSA SCOTT

Recorder News Staff

FORT PLAIN -- Though countless local shops now bear signs telling would-be customers, "Sorry, due to flooding, we're closed," a handful of Fort Plain are still pushing to stay afloat.

"Oh, we're staying open," Steve Grimm, a part owner of Geesler's Plumbing on Canal Street, said. "No, we'll be open. We're doing work now and we'll be open by next week."

Geesler's, which sells water pumps and heaters, a commodity in Fort Plain post-flooding, has a sign in its front window that says it's open "hit and miss." Many residents know the back entrance is usually open to serve customers, however.

Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton has said 87 businesses have told him they won't be reopening, but several others in this flood-stricken village are determined to open again.

"Kathy's Attic, Papa Joe's, the Newsstand," Tay Milks, part owner of Ragtime on Main Street, said of her neighboring businesses she has heard won't be reopening. "I think we even lost the Chinese restaurant [Red Lantern.] It's going to be a ghost town."

Milks said she is blessed to not have sustained damage to her store.

"Our saving grace, our only saving grace, is that Ragtime is upstairs," Milks said.

Ragtime, a collectibles store that sells "stuff" from the second floor of 37 Main St., will reopen for business today, Milks said.

"My feeling is that with all the devastation and all the loss of things, people are going to need stuff," Milks said. "And Ragtime has it."

Milks said when she saw the floodwaters rising up to her home on Canal Street, an old commercial structure that crafted tombstones years ago, she was the most frightened she'd ever been in her life.

"Even so, there's still life left in town," Milks said. "We just went through a slight breakdown. We'll get it together."

Alan Brown, who is a part owner of the laundromat and tax office shops on Division Street, said everything was back open on Wednesday, though he was still waiting for National Grid to return gas to the laundromat.

Brown said he also owned a laundromat in Canajoharie in 2006 when it experienced devastating flooding, so this is his second time involved in the restoration process.

Because Save-a-Lot and Family Dollar were wiped out by the flood, Brown said he's worried about business to his own stores.

"I was really debating whether to invest in this place or call in a wrecking ball," Brown said, with a saddened chuckle. "What really scares me is the fact that the grocery stores closed. A lot of people come do their laundry and then they need something to do while it's going. Now that they don't have the grocery stores, I'm scared they're going to head someplace else."

Brown said he's thought about selling the property, but he doubts he would get much out of it, considering all the money he's invested thus far.

"But really, who's going to want to buy a flooded out building?" Brown asked.

Brown said he estimates he's already lost between $4,000 and $6,000 worth of business, though he has seen regulars start to return to the laundromat.

As they continue to dust off their property, toss debris out to the curb and flip their signs to "open for business," Milks said all that's left is to wait for the residents of Fort Plain to start coming back in.

"I don't care how minimal your damage was, the clean up is still major," Milks said. "We are truly blessed. We were spared. But I know everyone else wasn't."