After flooding, Missouri businesses face cleanup costs

Marketplace Contributor Jan 19, 2016

After flooding, Missouri businesses face cleanup costs

Marketplace Contributor Jan 19, 2016

You don’t usually find a lot of people lining up to get pizza at 4 p.m. But there they were, in a white tent in Eureka, Mo., recently.

Scores of hungry residents of the St. Louis suburb came to this temporary outpost to help out Joe Boccardi’s, an Italian eatery decimated by the region’s historic flooding.

Barb Heinesen, a loyal customer of Joe Boccardi’s pizza pies since the restaurant opened 45 years ago, was among those who came. 

“We’ve had floods similar before, but not nearly as high,” Heinesen said. “We’ve seen the devastation before, but not this degree. Nowhere to this degree.”

Like other businesses hit hard by the floods over the  holidays, Joe Boccardi’s in Eureka didn’t have flood insurance. The restaurant had never been flooded before, so paying expensive premiums seemed counterintuitive. But now that means there’s no obvious source of money to replace equipment or to embark on renovation efforts.

And owner Ray Boccardi said that will make it difficult to repair hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. 

“Not only did we not get insurance on the rebuild, we’re not getting insurance on lost business,” Boccardi said. “We’re not getting insurance on loss of product or anything. So basically, they kind of left us high and dry because of the fact that we didn’t have flood insurance.”

Ray Boccardi, whose restaurant in Eureka, Mo. was damaged by the floods.

Julie Wood is Eureka’s director economic development. She said the floods affected roughly 40 businesses, and many didn’t have flood insurance. That will make recovery tough. “A lot of those businesses not only didn’t have flood insurance but employed their whole family,” Wood said. “So now you’ve got a family that doesn’t have an income that’s expected to replace all of these things without any money coming in – with no insurance help. And so, it creates kind of the perfect storm for them when it comes to how do they move on from this financially without some sort of help.”

There are some options. St. Louis County’s government is offering a no interest loan program for affected businesses. And it’s possible that flooded establishments could secure a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration to help with rebuilding efforts.

But St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said even though his county is willing to help out, there are limits. “They made a calculation over those period of years to not have flood insurance and now the flood has hit,” Stenger said. “So that’s going to be up to the individual business owners. From the perspective of the St. Louis County, we’re going to do everything we can to assist. But they are… private business entities.”

Even businesses that had flood insurance aren’t getting through clean up without paying a big chunk of change. In the nearby city of Pacific, the historic opera house that once hosted Missouri political legend Harry Truman suffered a lot of damage from the flood. The building’s brewery was basically a complete loss, especially since specialized equipment couldn’t be moved in time when the flood waters hit.

The building’s co-owner, Tom Dailey, said getting back to normal isn’t cheap – even with insurance. He said the nearly 110-year-old structure has “a hell of a deductible” totaling $50,000.

Ed Wall, with the Opera House in Pacific, Mo. shows how high the flood waters got on the building. 

Still officials like Wood aren’t pessimistic about recovery. She said flooded businesses are getting needed encouragement and elbow grease from Eureka residents. 

“As soon as those flood waters were receding, everyone was on the street,” Wood said. “’Can we help? What can we do? Can we clean?’ People were ripping out drywall. They were bringing their fans. They were saying ‘I’ll come eat at your restaurant every single day just so you guys can recoup some of this money.’”

Luke Fagan, the co-owner of the Pacific Brew Haus on the Opera House’s first floor, talked about his community’s willingness to help. 

“My phone’s been blowing up. Facebook obviously we’ve been hearing a lot. People stopping by and lending a hand,” Fagan said. “But right now at this point, we want to keep it with me, my business partner and a couple of employees helping out. Once we know our next step after the insurance company, then people will really be able to help us out and we’ll let them know.”

Ray Boccardi said the outpouring of help from longtime customers provided a very big incentive to reopen his doors soon. 

“It’s the only thing we know what to do,” Boccardi said. “Rebuilding is the only option. We don’t have an option to just hang it up. We don’t want to do that. We just feel like it’s important for all of us to bounce back and rebound. Whether we get federal assistance, state assistance, county assistance or whether we have to do it on our own, we’re going to come back.”

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