Friday, June 25, 2010

A River Runs Through It (Gumdrop Swap's Basement, That Is)

June just hasn't been my month. It really appeared I was hitting my stride at the end of May. A successful Grand Opening. The weather was improving. It's not surprising to need a jacket on Memorial Weekend in CT. So with the warmer weather, you can see people's mood changing. They can't wait to get some fresh air after a long winter. So I was getting some good traffic especially from those working in downtown Bridgeport and wandering during their lunch break. I even get a few jurors on break from the courthouse down the street. So, I was feeling good about opening my boutique instead of keeping Gumdrop Swap as a web-only business. Then WHAM! My store was burglarized. June 17. My immediate reaction was the urge to run for the hills. I can take a hint. Maybe this isn't for me. I mean, I don't have a retail background. I went to art college for goodness sake. My business experience was learned through many instances of being taken advantage of as a freelance artist while still in high school. And a string of administrative jobs taught me contract negotiation, legal ease, record keeping, and etiquette. But, who was I to think I could open my own retail store? The theft was a reality check that being a friendly business owner won't deter the scum of humanity from feeding off your hard labor. But what bothered me most was the idea of someone invading my personal space. In the last few months I've spent more hours in that store than anywhere else ever (besides my home). I've made a decision about every color, fixture, hanger, and object in that space. Some stranger came in uninvited, took things that belonged to me, rearranged things, stole papers with my information... It's so hurtful. So one week later I was beginning to recover. To smile and trust the customers coming into the store. I'm trying not to assume the people that enter my store are casing the joint.
    One week later, it was humid. My A/C had been out of commission for weeks and the technicians FINALLY figured out the problem and fixed it. Great! Things are looking up. I had a few new customers and a returning customer who spent some gumdrops she had earned from her swap a few weeks ago. She had some great suggestions about my store hosting her meetup group of local moms. We chatted for a while. Shortly after she left I noticed the sky was getting darker (remember there is an all glass roof over the atrium of the courtyard in the Arcade Mall). There was some thunder and lighting. We've had a few thunderstorms recently. No big deal. Then the electricity flickered on and off a few times. Ok. That caused me to pause because I was using my laptop at the time. Then the rain began. Abnormally heavy rain I noted. Right after that thought, a loud crash of glass breaking. Oh God, not the glass roof! I imagined the whole thing crashing down. I ducked and waited about a minute before investigating. I stood inside the door to my store and could see debris and glass from the broken roof panes. There was a piece of roofing that flew from an adjacent building that caused the break. I looked to the back door and above to see walls of water passing by. The building's superintendent waved me back from the door. I backed away towards the middle of my store and heard a strange sound coming from the rear stairwell that leads to my basement where I store off season and duplicate merchandise. The best way to describe the sound I heard was a waterfall. My heart dropped. I hope that water is staying in the alley and not coming into my store. Wrong. There was a river flowing in through the less than 1 inch gap under back door. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie or something. I grabbed some plastic bags and plugged the gap to slow down the flow of water. Then I went to investigate the damage in the basement. The floor is uneven down there so there was 4-6 inches of water depending on where I stood. I was in awe for a minute. You've got to be kidding. I think that was directed to God.

    I used an empty paint tray to push the water towards the drain on the floor. I began moving bins and boxes out of the water. Transferring the dry merchandise to higher levels. The security guard helped me for about an hour. The superintendent came to tell me there had been a tornado and outside looked like a war zone. He left to go help at another property where an A/C unit had been ripped from a wall and water was pouring into the building. The mall would be closed for the rest of the week until the glass could be replaced on the roof and normalcy returned.When I went outside I couldn't believe the destruction. Trees and light poles ripped from the ground. Awnings and signage crumbled and windows of building and cars shattered. People walked and inspected in a state of shock. I made it to my car but was detoured a few times with road blocks by police barricades or a tree blocking the street. It looked like a movie set. I was still processing what happened. I had been relatively safe inside my brick building unlike those out on the street when this unexpected twister came through. Some wet clothes in a basement was minimal damage compared to what I was looking at. I rushed home to my daughter and husband for a much needed hug.


    1. Gabby, my prayers are with you. I drove downtown today and saw the devastation and thought you were secure inside the Arcade. I am speechless right now.

      If you need any help with clean up, please don't hesitate to contact me.

      And, I know your doubt about not having a retail background, but look what you've accomplished thus far - YOU CAN DO THIS! This is the time to walk by faith and not by sight!

      Karin (Nneena Belle)

    2. Thanks for following my blog. Have a great weekend!