By Bianca Fortis
Two New York City firefighters have gotten a second chance at running their Rockaway Beach business after it was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy.
Tim Keenan and Scott Edwards said their shop, Surfside Bagels, at 95-11 Rockaway Blvd., was inundated with water during the storm, which destroyed all their equipment.
In the months following the tempest, the road to recovery had reached a standstill.
“It was almost nonexistent,” said Keenan, a Rockaway native who now lives in Whitestone, “We did not have enough funds to reopen.”
They said their biggest concern was their employees.
“We still had another career,” Edwards, who lives on Long Island, said. “But they lost their homes, clothes, car and now their job.”
After an attempt to file for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan proved unsuccessful, any hope for opening the bagel shop seemed like a lost cause.
That is, until they one day received an e-mail from a Long Island company that offered to fix up the store for free.
“We thought it was a scam,” Edwards said. “We thought there was no way someone would donate their time, money and energy to help us out.”
The e-mail came from FrontStreet Facility Solutions, a company in Bohemia, that specializes in business management and construction.
Joseph Scaretta, chief development officer of FrontStreet, said the company reached out to the business as a gesture of social responsibility.
“We wanted to find a place that could bring back a sense of normalcy to the community,” he said. “Somewhere to get a cup of coffee or a bagel, the things we take for granted.”
In Keenan and Edwards Scaretta said he found two “good, deserving guys” who are happy to give back to the local community.
“These are the guys running into a burning building when everybody else is running out,” he said.
The two even used up a $10,000 credit line so they could continue to pay their employees after the storm, according to Scaretta.
The FrontStreet crew started work on the store in December. By February, Surfside Bagels had reopened.
“If Joe and FrontStreet didn’t come along, we’d still be like the rest of those businesses — still boarded up,” Edwards said.
On Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the storm, Edwards and Keenan gave away free coffee and bagels to their customers. They said business has not fully returned to the level before the storm, but seeing new customers in the store is a signal that the situation will improve.
Surfside Bagels was the first project of this nature that FrontStreet has worked on. The company now wants to help a business in the parts of Oklahoma ripped apart by deadly tornadoes earlier this year. Edwards and Keenan will continue to be involved with future FrontStreet projects, including a young entrepreneur challenge which awards start-up funding to new businesses.
It all comes back to the company’s mission of social responsibility.
“We want other people to see what we’re doing and replicate it,” Scaretta said.
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.