Three days after Sandy's wrath, restaurants and groceries with power in New York City are now getting back to normal. Delivery trucks are back on the roads and customers are back in the aisles. But not in downtown Manhattan, which is still waiting for its electricity to be restored. Con Ed says that should happen this weekend. But just how is the city's food supply holding up?
Manhattan’s an island, so when bridges and tunnels were closed that affected the supply chain. But now that the roads are working again, the supplies are flowing — at least to areas with electricity. It may take longer to get around because of the traffic. But delivery trucks are lining up along the avenues uptown.
At the Amish Market on 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, you wouldn’t even know there was a storm. Exotic fruits are piled up on display near the front door and the deli counter is stocked with meats. Store manager Kadir Cetinler says most of his suppliers are making deliveries, again, except for a dairy business in Brooklyn that he relies on for butter and cream cheese.
"I couldn’t reach them yesterday," he said. "They were closed I guess. I’ll try today one more time. I need some dairy product."
His shelves also were bare of eggs ,but he said he expected some of his suppliers to come through with those shortly.
Downtown, though, is a whole other story.
At the Café Bravo, on West 30th Street, two deliverymen carted boxes of cookies and chips into a dark little corner store. It was the shop’s first delivery since losing power on Monday night. Manager Charlie Alomari said he lost about $9,000-$10,000 worth of food because of the storm.
"We lost a lot of stuff," he said, adding that he had to toss out ice cream, meat and milk.
Alomari had ordered non-perishable items for when he can reopen the store, hopefully Saturday.
One of the delivery guys, Glenford Prescott Junior, who works for Astor Distributors in Brooklyn, said he’s been getting a lot of calls from corner stores that don’t have electricity. Some are gearing up for the weekend; others are open by flashlight. Prescott’s got plenty of snack food but he says he’s running low on other supplies.
"Toilet tissues, paper towel and water is what I’m mainly short of cause those stuff go quickly," he said.
That stuff is selling, both uptown and downtown. What's not selling is produce. With so many grocers and supermarkets unable to use their refrigerators, suppliers haven't been moving veggies and the clock is ticking. Eddie Tirado is a sales manager at S. Katzman Produce at the Hunts Point market, where so much of the city gets its food. He says fresh greens start to wilt after about three days.
"It’s the stuff we are getting locally, like plain parsley, collards, kale, mustard tops, all the leafy items," he explained. "That’s all the stuff we really need to concern ourselves with because that stuff doesn’t have much of a shelf life now because it’s the end of the season. Getting that to the retailer is key for us.
One big retailer without power was giving away its perishable items on Thursday.
At the Whole Foods on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, a crowed formed outside the door when a worker came out with a cart full of tomatoes, peppers and fruit. He said it was still good quality, and asked everyone to form a line. Many of those waiting said they live in the neighborhood, and would have had to keep walking north to find food. Sari Joseph, for one, was thrilled to pick up some free tomatoes.
"I made the mistake of right before the storm hit, going to Trader Joe’s and buying massive amount of food so my refrigerator is stocked to the brim with food that is fast deteriorating," she said.
And that could be the upside for those distributors who lost some business. When New Yorkers do get their power back, they’ll be eager to restock their refrigerators once again.