Several downtown Palatka business face severe damage

A tornado left at least two downtown Palatka businesses on Second Street reeling following Hurricane Irma.

Kathy Griffin, owner of Lady Bug’s Gift Shoppe, didn’t know what she was expecting when Hurricane Irma subsided and she arrived to check on her business. The hurricane smashed into the roof of her business and antique store, 2nd Street Treasures.

“I was devastated,” Griffin said. “There’s no words for it. You don’t wish anything like this on your worst enemy. As a business owner, you put your heart and soul into that business, and I put my heart and my soul into my business.”

Griffin worked 12 hours Tuesday and Wednesday moving merchandise into a warehouse behind the store, which was previously Wattle’s Office Supply. Next door, Uncork and Unwind Craft Beer and Wine Lounge was without power for a time but suffered no damage.

“We will rebuild, and we will remain at this site,” Griffin said. “We’ll be upbeat regardless of what will happen.”

From the outside of 2nd Street Treasures it appeared everything was fine. Co-owner Alice Cooper said prior to the storm she was more concerned about flooding, laying out bags of potted soil.

“Damage to the roof wasn’t even in our umbrella of thought.” Cooper said. “When we walked in, you couldn’t even imagine it.”

In addition to the hole in the roof, ceiling tiles were wet and falling on the floor. Blocks of insulation hung from the ceiling. Inside, crews were taking down the ceilings and insulation.

Cooper said they are trying to find a building to rent or temporarily relocate to get ready for the holiday season.

But Cooper worried about transferring the business licence and utilities. Cooper said 2nd Street Treasures didn’t have replacement insurance because it was too expensive.

Dannise Kemp, director of Miss D’s Quilts on St. Johns Avenue, put tarps over sewing machines and quilting machines. There was some damage to the roof and there was leaking in the corners of her building. Water came through the roof, and Kemp counted 23 ceiling tiles that fell on the floor.

“I’m a fourth-generation Floridian,” Kemp said. “You’ve got to be tough to live here.”

Kemp’s store was still open and had a customer Thursday morning despite the damage. Kemp said there were complications, and she can’t run the air conditioning or some of the machines but she praised Florida Power & Light’s “Herculean effort” to restore power.

Downtown Palatka Inc. President Sam Deputy said he knew 12 roofs damaged in downtown. Deputy said he was pleased business owners were helping each other.

“It’s time really for the community to rally behind local business and try to help us get back up,” Deputy said.

Deputy hadn’t heard of any looting in downtown Palatka during or after the storm. But Deputy added the coming months will be an arduous time for small family-owned stores affected by Irma.

“These are mom-and-pop businesses. They’re not chains,” Deputy said. “There’s usually a two-week cushion. After two weeks, you’re out of business.”