Coney Island beach boutique finds its way back | Crain's New York Business
Seven months after Hurricane Sandy, the Lola Star Boutique in Coney Island is back in business, to the relief of owner Lola Star, and the delight of customers who helped rebuild the shop.
Part of the reason it took seven months to reopen is because the 134-square-foot shop is located inside the Stillwell Avenue subway station, which was inundated with mud and grime from the storm surge.
"It was like opening up Pandora's box," Ms. Star said. "Every problem and complication that could arise did."
Ms. Star rents the space from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Before opening her shop in 2010, she spent four years negotiating the details with the transportation authority, hiring an engineer to draw the precise plan of the shop and getting it approved. Rebuilding the shop, she had to make sure it would look exactly the same.
She admits that she didn't prepare for the storm well enough. Expecting Sandy to hit her 600-square-foot shop on the boardwalk, she moved the entire inventory to Stillwell Avenue, a block from the ocean. To her surprise, Sandy didn't touch her shop on the boardwalk. Her shop at the subway station, however, was flooded. Ms. Star lost everything.
It cost her $100,000 to reopen: $25,000 to rebuild the shop, the same sum to purchase new inventory. She lost $50,000 in sales from being closed for seven months.
Despite the expense, time and worry, Ms. Star says Sandy has made her a better businesswoman.
"I'm pretty shocked by how naïve I was before this happened, she said. "The lesson was tough, but it made me rethink my business model and reinvent my business."