Storms create stress on small businesses in the Lowcountry

HILTON HEAD, Sc. (WSAV) – It’s a few months out of the year, but hurricane season puts a lot of pressure on small business owners. In the Lowcountry, last year we had Hurricane Matthew, and this year, only Tropical Storm Irma, but some business owners say they just can’t do another.

“With Matthew, food loss alone was $2,500 dollars out of pocket and business was down 40 percent for a month,” said Michael Kadar.

Kadar owns Philly’s Cafe & Deli on Hilton Head, where South Carolina’s governor called a mandatory evacuation prior to Tropical Storm Irma’s arrival.

“With Matthew, I lost 8 days of business, from the time we had to evacuate til I could back on Hilton Head to reopen my business,” he said, “With Irma, I lost two days.”

Another hurricane, or even tropical storm, he said, could be his last.

“It’s a larger loss than those physical days, because you have the week, to two weeks, or a month even afterwards that you’re still trying to recover,” he said.

And he’s not alone, in the past week, 843 restaurant on the Island announced they were closing their doors for the last time, as well as the 15-year-old Bluffton Bike Shop. Both, citing loss from the storms as a contributing factor.

“With Irma, we’re probably looking at 15 to 20 days where people are really down,” said Shellie West, CEO of the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, “For a small business owner… it can be detrimental, especially if they could have been struggling before.”

Hilton Head Advisor markets about 200 small businesses on the Island.

“We did lose roughly 55 last hurricane season, so that was after Matthew, and as far as retaining, gaining any of those back, we got about maybe 5 back,” said Travis Hunter, Co-Owner of Hilton Head Advisor. 843 was also one of their clients.

But the Bluffton Chamber of Commerce says every business has its season.

“For some businesses it’s the summer, for some it’s the fall and the spring, and they really capitalize on those times,” West said, “This is one of the highest growth areas in the country, so why not start your business here?”

As for Kadar, it’s the locals that keep him going,

“I love it, I have all these local customers that I know their name, I know their sandwiches,” he said, “So I’m gonna try to hang on to this as long as I can.”

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