The latest flood in late July, which dumped six inches of rain in two hours, did not deter Bagha from reopening his store, Main Street Oriental Rugs, alongside others on Saturday.
"A business owner takes risks. I wouldn't be a business owner otherwise. This is what I do," said Bagha, who immigrated from
But 100 days after the devastating flood,
More than half of the businesses on
"We are lacking the critical mass that will make
Most businesses are just seeing checks from the partnership, which must fulfill its mission to preserve the vitality of the historic district. The partnership is distributing less money from donations to businesses that chose to leave
Other business owners say insurance companies have reneged on promises for costly flood insurance policies.
"There's no actual money for businesses owners in this situation coming from state, county or federal government," Shuey said. "If a flood were to happen again next year, we've got nothing to fall back on."
Her insurance company is covering
Although some businesses on higher ground opened in early October, landmarks of the local business scene, like
The future of other businesses on the lower end of the street, which was hit hardest by the flood and largely remains boarded up, are in limbo as rebuilding continues.
Coyne said his equipment and merchandise was looted after the flood when the county denied access to the area.
Many buildings are more flood-proof and several interiors and exteriors are more attractive after post-flood renovations, with new features like ceramic floors to replace wood floors and newer heating and ventilation system, Reuwer Jr. said.
Some buildings were "in dire need of repair," Reuwer said.
New faces, like a Syrian cafe and a family-owned pet boutique and bakery called
Taylor's Collective, a store that features a pool of artists, will open with a champagne reception
"This has brought us all together in a united way," Ryland said of the July flood. "I feel saddened, but very positive."
That opening pushed vacancy rates to 10 percent in 2014, a number that typically hovered between 4 and 0.2 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to data from the
The Caplan building, once a department store that housed clothing boutique Sweet
'A new facade'
Silently and subtlety, the old town is re-shifting its brand, market and identity from an antique and collectibles spot to a broader range of goods and services. The flood could trigger changes in clientele, the types of businesses attracted to vacant spots and the character of the town.
Shoemaker said it's too early to tell how
But the flood is hastening the pace of a generational transition from antiques and collectives to consumer goods that cover a broader spectrum, Reuwer said.
"Old shop owners are giving way to a new generation and that generation is targeting their peers," Reuwer said. "If you were thinking about retiring, the flood made that decision for you. People who would've hung on have decided it's time for the next generation to take over."
Change is not uncommon in the old town, which was once a collection of grocery stores, a movie theater and hardware shops.
Bagha hopes for radical change. He says the old historic district should shed some of its historic past to bring in more corporate stores like those in
"We are living in a different time. People's habits have changed. It's time to adapt," Bagha said.
Already, the town has taken on a subtle, but different character. Changes in county law passed after the flood have relaxed some historic preservation requirements to speed up rebuilding.
"We are going through a massive reboot. The vacancies give us a little bit of pause," said
Still, the fear of another flood looms.
Business and property owners are looking to state and county officials to manage stormwater in the historic district.
The county has launched a series of public charettes beginning this month to gather community feedback as it completes comprehensive studies of the drainage area.
But at its heart, the town's community spirit, frequently cited by business owners as a magnetizing force that encouraged them to stay in the flood-prone town, will recharge and refuel recovery.
"On its own, the flood would've been terrible if it just had been us," Johnson said. "But when you turn to your neighbor, you realize you're in it together."
Coffee shop owner Shuey decided to stay because
That emotional attachment was also significant for
"I lost as much as I gained in the flood," Holliday said. "I lost a significant amount monetarily. In terms of realizing the value of this community and my friends, that was a gift. It's kind of like a roller coaster. Some days I can focus on the really positive and the other days I'm wondering how it's going to work out."
The community's commitment to the town during the holiday season will determine how
"This holiday season will be the rocket fuel that puts things into motion," he said.
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