While many are open for business, they face a host of obstacles getting people back in because of consistently congested traffic, closed roads and a general misunderstanding about what places have been forced to shut down.
Customers are the lifeblood for hyper-local establishments without the benefit of a huge corporation behind them. Without loyal clientele, many eateries are facing some hard decisions in the upcoming months, particularly whether to remain open.
That is a fear for Ravi Bathe, co-owner of Himalayas, Aroma of India, located at 709 N. Moore in the New City shopping center.
Although it was closed for only two days due to lack of power, the restaurant has weathered a sparsely populated dining room ever since. “Because of the tornadoes, we’ve lost half our business,” Bathe said. “People can’t get here. We have customers from Norman and Oklahoma City as well, and because of the traffic, a couple of customers personally call [to say they won’t be coming in],” he said. “They say sorry to us.”
In addition to traffic headaches, Bathe noted, many regular customers were themselves victims of the tornado.
“It looks like it is going to be a rough couple of months,” he said. “We don’t know how things are going to go from now. We’re taking the loss pretty hard.”
Still, Bathe counts himself as one of the lucky ones — and he is grateful for it.
“We were just a mile from the place where things happened, so we are really blessed. There was not any kind of damage to the building except for some minor issues with air conditioners and wiring. The building is still alive, which makes us feel very blessed.”
For some businesses, however, the constant flow of traffic through Moore — be it volunteers, gawkers or locals looking for a low-priced lunch — has prompted an uptick of activity. One such place is Supermercado Morelos, 621 N. Moore, just a few doors from Himalayas.
A small Mexican grocery store open less than a year, Morelos also boasts a taquería that’s grown in popularity in the aftermath of May 20.
Manager Jose Ibarra said they were expecting this.
“The taquería has been great since we opened, but in the last couple of weeks, it’s been a lot higher,” he said.
“We have many new customers. We expected more in the taquería when [resi- dents] started cleaning up and rebuilding, so we were ready.”
Morelos did have some problems amid the disaster. The supermarket and taquería had to throw away more than $15,000-worth of meats and dairy products when it lost refrigeration. Still, Ibarra said he is thankful that business has returned to somewhat normal.
Harry Bear’s All American Grill, 2113 Riverwalk Drive, an Oklahoma institution that was hit hard, had to contend with disposing of “thousands of dollars’ worth of food,” said owner Chuck Roberts.
“No one could get to us for the whole first week because they had everything blocked off this way, so we were open, but we just had a handful of customers, so that was the biggest effect,” he said. “We wanted to open. The employees wanted to work, but we just didn’t have any customers the first week after the tornado.”
Roberts said it pained him to have to tell workers their shifts had to be cut or reduced because of a lack of business — especially at a time when they needed the income.
To build business back up, Harry Bear’s offers daily specials, including 99-cent root beer floats, but congested traffic continues to be a hindrance.
had someone call today to see if we were open, and this is three weeks
later. So we’re just trying to get the word out that we’re open, to get
business back to normal,” Roberts said. “We’re getting there; it’s just
been a process.”
Like so many Moore residents and business owners who weathered the storms with their lives intact, Roberts is looking on the bright side. In the restaurant window is a sign reading “Moore Strong,” the increasingly ubiquitous motto found on signage around town.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Roberts said. “That’s what is really hard for me to drive by this area every day, and you just see all the homes and the other business that just got wiped out.
“We feel blessed that we’re still open and we’re still going. Harry Bear’s has been around for about 25 years, and we’ve seen a few tornadoes. We’ve had a few ups and downs, and we’re gonna hang in there.”