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A big part of our customer base doesnít have a kitchen, they donít have a home to live in.

Schoharie struggling but open for business

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Villagers in flood ravaged Schoharie are struggling to rebuild their damaged homes six weeks after the floods from hurricanes Irene and Lee. But as Karen DeWitt reports, some in the tourist-dependent region say they are open for business this coming Columbus Day weekend.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

The Ball family’s Carrot Barn farm store, which sells produce, locally raised meats and local cheeses, never really closed up even after the floods ruined the entire field crop. The store also contains a café that sells, among other things, carrot cake, and soft music plays in the background. Owner Richard Ball, who has been busy stocking produce from other farms from as far away as Hadley Massachusetts, says he feels luckier than most.

“We lost some crops this harvest time, but we can replant,” Ball said. “But so many of our neighbors in town lost their homes.”

274 of the 290 homes in the village were partially or totally destroyed when the creek swelled to a raging torrent and swept through the main residential and business section of the village in late August. Many are still living in tents, campers, and in the second floors of their houses, which were spared from the flood waters.

Ball says his local patrons continue to shop, but their needs have dramatically changed.

 “A big part of our customer base doesn’t have a kitchen, they don’t have a home to live in,” said Ball, who says many are buying meals just for that day, and have not canned or frozen any produce to store.

“They may be cooking on grill,” said Ball, or picking up contributions for a meal at a relative’s home, where they are temporarily living.

He says fewer tourists have come so far in the crucial fall season.
He says a sign on Interstate 88, the superhighway that leads to the village, which says the road to Schoharie is closed, and only local traffic allowed, isn’t helping. The road is open, though work crews often limit traffic in spots to one way at a time.

Most of the store fronts on Main Street are empty. There are water stains on the large glass windows. Doors are propped open in an attempt to let fresh air in to stanch the reek of mold.

But one business is functioning. Eric Goodrich runs the Little Italy Pizza and Pasta shop, and he says his customers needed him, for over a month there were no services in the center of town, and people had to drive ten miles just for a “cold bottle of soda”.

“Which is one of the reasons that we hurried,” said Goodrich. “People needed someplace clean, where they could grab the basics. It’s a cheap hot meal.” 

Goodrich says friends and families helped him gut and restore the wood paneled interior, and clean the baking ovens in record time.

He also owns an adjacent liquor store, and is renovating a small strip mall. He says he chooses to believe that the village will come back from the worst flood in its history.

“It seemed wrong to cut and run on the town,” Goodrich said.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez, who has lived in Schoharie for most of his life, lost the house he grew up in. It was damaged beyond what his family can repair. Nevertheless he remains dedicated to his hometown, and he says the the region still has its own, unique appeal, including scenic views and colorful foliage. But he acknowledges that many people might be “hesitant”.

“There are many facilities that are open,” Lopez said. “My wife and I were just in our home county picking apples this past weekend, and it was a marvelous weekend.”
 
Schoharie, which has a long history, including action in the Revolutionary War, is also holding a festival Columbus Day weekend at its historic stone fort. Organizers say the program is free, but they hope people will give donations instead to help residents rebuild , and won’t be frightened off by all of the bad news about the floods.

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