Since two weeks after super storm Sandy devastated coastal communities, Fine Fare foods has had its doors closed. But in the next couple of months they’re promising a new return with some of the old store mixed in with new products, a new interior, and likely a new distributor.
Open and serving Red Hook for some seven years, owner Damien Castillo said that the store had built a strong customer base in the neighborhood and sold to “between 500 and 600 customers a day.”
Its customers were among the only reliable things in the store. Flood insurance and consistent distribution to Brooklyn proved difficult to secure before the storm and so Castillo hopes that his return will be as much a reinvention as a return to a good thing.
Its in the same location and from the outside not much has changed. But as the glare on the door gives way to views of the new interior, memories of water damaged shelves and spoiled food, rusted metal and mold are quickly forgotten.
Fast forward to August 2013 and it is hard to imagine that this is the same store that was once left damaged by the hurricane. After Sandy hit the store all that remained were water-stained shelves and spoiled food. Rusted steel, metal, and mold are but forgotten memories of damaged Fine Fare.
There is only one way to describe the renovated store and that is impressive. The first thing to grab any shopper’s attention may simply be the modern decor. The colors of orange, red, brown and black should cause any shopper to feel right at home.
Despite the store’s success, it had some issues before Sandy visited, such as its appearance.
“Well before the storm, it needed a revamp, it was time. So Sandy took care of it, we had no choice,” Castillo said.
While they managed to keep the store open for nearly two weeks after Sandy, Castillo and his team finally realized it was best to close until things could be figured out. But how does someone survive for so long without their main source of income? For Castillo, the answer was family and friends who supported him in any way that they could.
“By the grace of God, it has been a challenging struggle. Friends and family have helped me somewhat. I’ve maxed out credit cards,” Castillo said.
Castillo spent $600,000 renovating the store on his own. Utica First Insurance Company refused to provide flood insurance for the store becase of its location in a flood-risk zone. So without insurance or money from FEMA, for Castillo and his family has been difficult. The store still lacks coverage for floods.
As last year’s holiday season approached, Castillo and his team got to work revamping the store.
“Everything had to be demolished,” Castillo said. The reconstruction started in February.
The construction not only changed the appearance of the store, but also enhanced its ability to serve its customers.
“The store is going to be much bigger to provide more variety in the store,” said Castillo in a Star-Revue interview.
Fine Fare should reopen in the next few weeks. They are now putting the finishing touches on the store, which includes new flooring that Castillo hopes will be able to handle the next major storm. He is also slowly restocking the store’s five aisles, while attempting to maintain the proper balance of low prices and quality products. Both Key Food and Food Town each made bids for the store.
Those wondering if familiar employees will be back in the store will have to wait until opening.
“Some that may not be working, I’ll hire. Whoever is a good employee, I’ll hire back,” Castillo said.
He wants to make sure his final decision will meet both his own needs and those of the community.
“I want to make sure I get the best, because the better service I get the better I can serve the community,” Castillo said.