By Steve Mosco
Hurricane Sandy shuttered the doors of an eclectic Rockaway gift shop, but the owners want customers to know they are back and ready for business.
The Blue Bungalow, in storm-torn Rockaway Beach at 165 Beach 116th St., closed for about a month following Sandy’s wrath and at one point owners fretted that shoppers would ditch the peninsula, leaving them scrabbling to keep the doors open.
“We reopened on Black Friday and we were a little worried because half of Rockaway is not here,” said Liz Smith Breslin, who founded The Blue Bungalow with co-owner Jeanne Andrews Jamin in 2007. “The goal was always to get back and to get people in here. We wanted to get back to normal and help people escape a little bit.”
The Blue Bungalow boasts unique items for all occasions, from wedding showers to birthdays to heartwarming just-because gifts. The owners describe their store as a chic hideaway where people can escape from everyday life — where one can get lost in the smell of a fragrant candle or the sparkle of new jewelry or handmade beach-themed decor.
One of the most popular items at the store is its distinctive beach writing prints. These pictures, which can be personalized, are gorgeous photographs taken by Breslin of words written in the sand next to a perfect white wash wave. The purveyors also offer beach accents — wonderful items that can transform any apartment into a bungalow by the sea.
“What makes The Blue Bungalow very different is that we make a lot of the products ourselves,” said Breslin. “If you are looking for something personalized and original, you are going to find it here.”
A sense of originality permeates the Rockaways. It is a quaint beach town existing in a laid-back atmosphere while a bustling city life sits nearby. That lifestyle was threatened — and in some cases, destroyed — when the superstorm blew into town in late October. Both Breslin and Jamin lost homes in the Rockaways, the place that so many of their friends and family also call home.
“After the storm, people were walking around like there was a war and they just survived,” said Breslin. “Everybody lost something.”
Breslin lost a basement full of cameras and other photography equipment, but she also lost something far more irreplaceable: days after the storm, her father died. She believes the sight of all the destruction was just too much for his heart to take.
The next day, Breslin stepped out into the neighborhood and snapped photos while trying to make sense of it all.
“There’s a grieving process that everyone had to go through — mine was very personal,” she said. “But you have to take those steps.”
The Blue Bungalow took those first steps toward recovery, opening its doors and allowing residents to come in and talk about the devastation that swept through the area. Breslin said a lot of people just needed to be heard and they can get some gifts for others and maybe even a little something for themselves.
It is a step toward normalcy that The Blue Bungalow wants to take with the community.
“We are a very resilient community,” she said. “We’ll fight hard and come back bigger and better.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.