When Hurricane Sandy blew down the local power supply, leaving nearly everyone and ever business in Warren without power, few businesses were open.
Buteven before the roads were clear, Tom and Steve Castronovo were behind the counter at the Edgewood Pharmacy helping customers—almost as if nothing had happened.
Edgewood Pharmacy opened before power was restored to the shopping center because the store has a natural gas generator, installed when the center was remodeled about five years ago because owner Tom Castronovo didn't want his customers to have to worry about not being able to get their medications.
"We were open every day during and after the storm—the challenges that faced us were the lines of communication," Steve Castronovo said. "Cable was down until Sunday and we had very limited phone service."
Limited phone service is a big deal for a pharmacy, where communication with doctors, insurance companies and customers are vital and life-saving. "We also had a number of local residents that left the area because of the power outages," he added. "We were able to call pharmacies local to them to transfer their prescription information so they could continue on their medications."
Edgewood Pharmacy also delivered medications to customers who weren't able to get to the store—another example of the kinds of extra efforts many Warren businesses made after the storm to help their customers.
Across the street, at Warrenville Paint and Hardware, Monica Giglio found herself taking on crowd-control duties after the store was mobbed Nov. 3. Anxious customers found the store stocked with gas cans, batteries, and other supplies becoming essential as the power outage lingered.
The store's shelves were stocked after owner Bill MacDonald dispatched Richard Seale to a New Hampshire warehouse, where he loaded up and drove back in order to make sure Warrenville's customers could get what they needed. The store's response after the hurricane caught the attention of Star-Ledger columnist Dave D'Allessandro, who labeled MacDonald a "Hurricane Sandy Hero" for his actions.
Down the street at Nuray's Gourmet Cafe, the lights were out but owner Nuray Coskun could be found inside serving up hot coffee and muffins to anyone who came in.
"Everybody was driving around just trying to get coffee," she said. So she arranged for a generator to provide enough power to cook up some fresh muffins and make coffee—and to keep her freezers working. "Last year, I had to throw everything out and I didn't want to do that again."
Just getting to her store was an ordeal—blocked roads meant her normal commute was blocked and she had to drive up to I-78, down to Liberty Corner Road, then wind through back roads as the only way to get to her Mountain Boulevard restaurant.
Some stores that had power used the opportunity to make customers a little more comfortable—Brian LeBoeuf, at noted that while his store never lost power, he did lose telephone and Internet service, his main connections to customers.
"We encouraged customers to come in and warm up while charging their cell phones and computers, and many did," he said. "In the two weeks after the storm, our business was off 80 percent from last year, but our inventory does not go to waste, like some who may be in the food business."
He added the time didn't go to waste, either: "We spent the quiet time decorating early for the holidays, which gave us a sense of hope as we move towards our busy season," he said.