The iconic Palm Beach Store is back in business – though squeezed into half the space – after last month’s floods.
Half the store remains off limits behind a blue tarpaulin while decisions are made about swollen particle board flooring and other repairs. Lower wall linings have been removed in the closed-off area to allow framing timber to dry out.
Floodwaters swept through the shop in the early hours of 8 March, during the worst of three deluges to hit the island in five days.
Lessees Allen Hung and Nicole Ping lost about $20,000 in goods ranging from cigarettes to household items on ground-level shelves and in the storeroom. Six freezers and two fridges have also been taken away.
The heartbroken pair took over the lease of the shop only in February and had yet to select an insurer.
For Allen, it represents a double dose of bad luck. He was in China attending the funeral of his uncle when the flood occurred, leaving Nicole to cope with the clean-up as he hurried home.
Nicole, who was sleeping nearby after moving-in new stock the previous night, entered the shop at 4am to find herself in ankle-deep water. “Within about a minute the water rose to my knees,” she says. “I could see blue lines [of electricity] running across the water from power cords and got out.”
She and a friend waited an hour and a half until an electrician arrived to make the building safe. Torrents of water had seeped in from every entrance point and a metre-deep lake had formed behind the shop.
When the water receded, sodden goods ranging from beach towels to bread were strewn around and a 10 centimetre layer of silt covered the floor.
The shop was closed for two weeks while the adjoining Palm Beach Takeaways remains closed. The floor of the takeaway bar has been stripped and lower wall linings removed and it appears weeks away from re-opening.
“I nearly gave up when I saw all the damage,” Nicole says. “I am normally quite strong and I didn’t cry while we were busy cleaning-up, but when I got home I cried for hours.”
But the couple say amazing support from friends, neighbours and suppliers has helped them back on their feet.
Suppliers and distributors took back stock that could be salvaged; friends pitched-in with the clean-up; while neighbours supplied water and a water-blaster to clear the silt. They are particularly grateful to Keith from KB Distributors, Peter from the takeaways and his friend Hemi and neighbours Barbara and Nigel and family, who helped with the initial response. Then others rallied to complete the clean-up and re-organise the shop to operate in half its space.
The couple now hope the community will continue to support the store while the business rebuilds.
Allen had worked at Palm Beach Store for seven years before becoming lessee and says there had been no previous flooding issues. The council installed a new culvert on the road near the store last year but Allen believes the volume of water was unprecedented.
“They say it was a one-in-100-year event. It has done serious damage and it’s been a very stressful time.”