Tuesday, May 31, 2011

day five, flood recovery

The last few days have been overwhelming-
Torrential rain fell thursday night overwhelming our storm water drains, roads, and rivers flooding basements and first floors of many downtown businesses and residences. Septic tanks & oil tanks over-flowed, and business as usual halted to a stop.
Friday threatened more storms, roads washed away, and the streets were nearly empty except for a few tourists who wandered around our now dry streets wondering why everything was closed. I arrived at kismet to find our basement completely full to the brim with water, and in addition could hear water spraying into the basement form a burst or severed water pipe. My propane tanks were floating in the back parking lot, and the whole place smelled like oil and gas. Our building manager was away for a family event & holiday weekend, our building owner was in france... Events planned had to be canceled, reservations canceled, and a weekend that should have been one of our busiest of the spring was to be a loss.
Saturday morning we were able to begin to drain most of the water from the basement and assess the damage. Having never seen a flood of this nature, I was overwhelmed immediately with emotion as i looked into what used to be our pantry and prep kitchen to see the ceiling caving in, the shelves toppled over, equipment torn and tossed about, and my complete inventory scattered about an oily, compost and sewage filled room. It looked like we had had an earthquake, fire, and a flood all at once..
With most of our town away on vacation or at home dealing with personal loss or unable to travel due to washed out roads and driveways, Moses, phil and i were joined by just a handful of friends and began the basement recovery. By saturday evening at 8 pm, we had filled 1/3 of a giant dumpster with over $18,000 worth of food inventory.
Sunday morning i was joined by several friends and some employees, and began part 2 of the basement- we carefully sorted through compost, oil, broken glass and soaked paper products to try to salvage glass ware and catering equipment. Dumpster is now 1/2 way full just as julios and vermont trading company begin to empty their basements.
monday, the dumpster is full, our basement is empty. wine celler is empty, plastic food containers are rinsed and put aside to wash when we have hot water. As I drive to burlington to pick up my mom from the airport (she happened to be flying in for a pre-arranged visit that day from portland oregon, and had not been to the new kismet yet), employees began calling regarding un-employment and questioning their job security.. We all gathered to discuss the situation, and make a plan. The Plan, was to make 3 plans. plan A, plan B, and plan C. Plan C being to close the restaurant for good. Plan B is to band-aid the major issues, open this weekend, and use our last bit of working capitol to buy some food to get back in business. plan A (my personal favorite) relies on a great many people, and the support of our community. Plan A keeps us on track with our start-up goals, current bill paying, & allows us to re-open equipped & on track with our existing start-up budget (we are still in start-up mode- it's only been 6 months since we moved...). Plan A means that we would need to raise $25,000 to replace our inventory, repair our gas and electric, and pay for staffing to prep our menu & $30,000 to repair our storage areas, which takes time and requires we have enough on hand to remain closed while that takes place. right now, everything is piled in the dining room-.

woke early and got the kids ready for school, when i dropped them off i told them that i was going to try to raise $25,000 today- fela smiled with eyes so big and said " you can do it mom!".
with my heart nervous, but full of hope, I went straight to my insurance company, where i was told that my very affordable policy would not cover any of the damage or contents. hmmm.. not such a good start.
I called my propane company to ask about my confiscated propane tanks, and was told that my line had been damaged and they might be able to get me hooked up on friday. hmmm...
The basement cleaning seems to be endless- three dumpsters later and a parking lot full of broken equipment and badly soiled msc. restaurant tools, and still no hot water... the times argus arrived to take photos, but due to their own flood over in barre, were about 2 days too late to see the whole story.
clean-up in the basement is going slow. hot water is restored at 5 pm, but the fungacide treatment didnt happen today, so i call volunteers to reschedule wednesday's work-party- the place will be too toxic.

Despite the potential to be distracted by the disappointments & wallow within this situation, i remained determined to stay optimistic, and confident in my efforts. Doubt is a dangerous and delicate dis-ease that is best kept at bay with determination, encouragement and tenderness. Today i was blessed to have been encouraged and touched deeply by the tenderness of this community as people came to visit and tell me how much kismet means to them, as i received donations and emails of encouragement and support, and as i witnessed the passion and devotion of my employees. It is clear now, that my most important job for the next three days is to stay determined and to be honest with myself about the reality of this situation. I feel focused & inspired, but also frightened & frail.

During the day i go to visit ben & meg @ langdon street- they are all closed up and the room is nearly empty- I am happy for them that they have found the readiness and peace in their decision to move into a new cafe-less future and away from their complex and difficult to describe situation. They have worked hard, and came to the decision with much deliberation. I realize when i leave the building previously known as the langdon street cafe that I, on the other hand, have NOT found the readiness to move away from kismet, and would indeed be devastated if i could not re-open the restaurant in full form and readiness to succeed...

After lunch i received a call from one of my larger lenders, they agreed to give me 2 months off from loan payments, and an additional $9,000 loan tacked on to the one i currently have. Then, I get a call from my insurance adjuster- looks like there might be a small clause in my policy- looks like i can get $10,000 because i have a sump pump and it "failed" to get all of the water out of the basement! (both the adjuster & i cried when she told me).
So today, the end of day five, we have raised $23,275 in loans/donations/support/insurance.. not bad!- & pretty close to my goal (it is still tuesday somewhere!)-

Can we do it? $31,025 to go...

tomorrow: DAY 6
-plan a fundraiser for kismet for saturday june 4th

better get some sleep

if you would like to make a donation, go to our website and use our new paypal device. we will not use the funds donated unless we come within a reach of our goal.