Businesses see pros, cons from Hermine

Published 9:21 pm Sunday, September 4, 2016

As Tropical Storm Hermine passed through Beaufort County on Saturday, businesses were left with the decision of what to do.

For some, a little rain wouldn’t deter them from staying open, but for others in low-lying areas, the water level was a concern.

Russell Smith, owner of Russell’s Men’s Shop in downtown Washington, said in the 47 years he’s been on Main Street, flooding has never caused major problems for him.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue,” he said on Friday. “For us, it’s business as usual.”

Smith said his store was fairly busy despite the rainy weather, usually because customers are looking for something to do indoors.

“I don’t know what it takes for people to stay home,” he said with a laugh. “We have been extremely busy.”

Landis Pinkham, owner of Cottage Junkies around the corner, agreed with Smith.

Pinkham said Main and Market streets aren’t usually the areas to flood — it’s the Stewart Parkway area closer to the Pamlico River.

“Normally, the downtown area doesn’t flood,” she said.

Despite this, Pinkham said she decided to err on the side of caution and closed her shop early on Saturday.

Many businesses have serious cause for concern when water levels rise, depending on their location.

Backwater Jack’s Tiki Bar & Grill and the adjoining Inner Banks Outfitters deal with flooding, as both are right beside Jack’s Creek. Washington businesses close to the waterfront, such as On the Waterfront Restaurant, also prepare for the possibility of problems.

Another well-known spot prone to flooding is downtown Belhaven.

“We actually are the only restaurant open at the moment,” Spoon River owner Teresa VanStaalduinen said Friday evening.

She said the restaurant decided to remain open to honor some of its prior reservations, and staff prepared for any flooding before Hermine arrived.

“You do the best you can. You try to get as much stuff up as you can,” VanStaalduinen said.

The old downtown buildings where Spoon River is located “flood very well,” according to VanStaalduinen. She said the buildings have seen many a hurricane and were built to last.

“They were here 100 years before I got here,” she said.

Although all businesses remain vigilant during storms, for VanStaalduinen, it comes back to serving the customer and doing what she can to remain open safely.

“You prepare for the people coming in,” she said. “Your customer is the No. 1 priority.”