MOORE — Nearly two months after Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis and his staff rode out the May 20 tornado in the vault of his jewelry store, business is almost back to normal, but many other businesses in the area have yet to reopen.
“We're anxious to get those businesses and those rooftops back,” Lewis said.
Moore sales tax revenue in the month following the storm dipped more than 11 percent. However, Lewis predicts that the city is poised for a construction surge in the next few months that will result in those numbers rebounding.
“I think we will see a boom in the next few months — all of that money will go to rebuild, buying things like street signs and police cars,” Lewis said.
The May 20 tornado shut down at least 33 businesses in the Moore area, many of which are still waiting on insurance claims to begin the rebuilding process, Lewis said.
Lewis, who has been mayor of Moore since 1994, also owns Lewis Jewelers just off Interstate 35 in Moore. His business was hard hit by the storm. The jeweler's 32,000-square-foot manufacturing center was a total loss, but he vows to rebuild.
Moore already has received four commercial construction permit applications, and another 250 residential permits for everything from repairs to new home construction.
“That's a good amount of activity and we are pretty happy with the way things are going in the area,” said Elizabeth Jones, community development director for the City of Moore.
Chamber helps out
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber worked to organize relief efforts to help damaged businesses get back on their feet in the days after the storm.
The chamber found that 296 business were in the direct path of the May 20 tornado, and another 1,300 were in the immediate vicinity of the storm.
The chamber organized the relief group within two days of the tornado because it recognized the strain that a disaster can put on a business that might already be surviving on a month-to-month basis, said Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
As many as one-fourth of businesses hit with a major disaster never reopen, Williams said.
“Many of these businesses are surviving paycheck to paycheck and the longer they are down, the higher chance there is of them not recovering,” Williams said.
The chamber coordinated efforts to help business meet immediate needs, such as donated office supplies in the days and weeks after the storm, but is now beginning to coordinate long-term efforts. Planning meetings are underway to begin a grant program for businesses affected by the spring storms in Oklahoma, Williams said.
In one of the city's hardest hit retail areas, construction fencing surrounds what remains of the Camden Village shopping center on 19 Street near Santa Fe Avenue. All of the retailers in the shopping center, which includes a gym, a tanning salon and a Dan McGuinness Pub, were gutted by the storm. Only the roofless frame of the shopping center remains.
Dan McGuinness franchisee Jim Fields initially believed he would be able to reopen the pub within a matter of weeks after the storm. The section of the shopping center that his restaurant occupies wasn't hit as hard as the rest of the building. Then he learned the entire strip mall would have to be leveled and rebuilt from the ground up.
‘In a holding pattern'
Nearly two months after the storm, Fields is still negotiating with his insurance company over his settlement and trying to find a new location. About 35 people that the pub once employed are out of jobs.
“We're kind of in a holding pattern at this point,” Fields said. “We are looking for an alternate location, or a temporary location — we're weighing all options.”
Gold letters on the outside of the pub once advertised sprits, fish and chips and shepherd's pie. In the days after the storm, one of the restaurant managers rearranged the remaining letters to spell “Survives.”
Fields hopes that is true.
I think we will see a boom in the next few months — all of that money will go to rebuild, buying things like street signs and police cars.”
Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis,