The Storm’s Hidden Damage

On the Monday following the Sept. 29 wind storm I had breakfast at the Summertime Restaurant in Fish Creek. General Manager Brian Hackbarth came by the table to say hello, and I asked him when the electricity was restored to his restaurant.

The good news for the Summertime is that their power was restored in two days. The bad news was that Hackbarth had to throw out a considerable amount of food because of the loss of refrigeration.

When we think about the havoc caused by the nearly 70 mph winds that hit our peninsula, the first thing that comes to mind is the physical damage caused by broken branches and fallen trees. Quite honestly, it never occurred to me that places like the Summertime would lose considerable amounts of food to spoilage. That “hidden” damage is a cost to our community that we don’t readily notice. So I started asking around to find out what other hidden costs turned up as a result of the storm.

Mike Felhofer, owner of Candleworks in Carlsville, didn’t experience any physical damage to his store. In fact of all the businesses in the County, his was perhaps the best equipped to keep the doors open during the power outage. “We sold candles by candlelight,” said Felhofer.

Obviously sales were off during the storm and its immediate aftermath, but one of the hidden costs stemmed from the weeklong closure of our state parks.

Many retailers and restaurateurs told me that fall is usually the best time of year for their businesses. In the summer, everyone wants to be outdoors boating, enjoying our beautiful shoreline, or exploring our incredible parks. During the fall, however, as tourists come up here in droves to enjoy the nuclear explosion of color, they always take time to shop and eat all the way home.

With the parks closed just at the time the leaves were reaching their peak color, undoubtedly fewer visitors made that drive up to Door County. And that has hurt business during a critical time of year.

Dick Skare of The Cookery in Fish Creek noted that they too only were out of power for a relatively short time, but the economic impact continued beyond that time.

“The parks being closed, power outages at lodging facilities and publicity made a robust autumn weekend into a so-so weekend for The Cookery,” said Skare.

The total economic impact of this lost week in Door County’s busiest season won’t be fully known for some time. But I live in Sturgeon Bay and my employer, the Door County Community Foundation, experienced no interruption in power. Nor is the Community Foundation dependent on the fall day tourists for our revenue. I was lucky.

So I’m going to do my part to help those who have been hit by the storm’s hidden damage. I’m going to shop and dine out at some of those stores and restaurants that have been impacted by the storm. It’s important that we do so because many of their owners and managers are some of the most civic-minded people in Door County.

Dick Skare and his family may be known as the owners of The Cookery, but he also served a half a dozen years on the original board of directors of the Door Community Auditorium. He was one of the good people who helped bring that community treasure into existence.

Brian Hackbarth runs the Summertime, but he was also one of the prime organizers that brought an expanded 4th of July celebration to Fish Creek. He was so passionate about the idea that he personally went knocking on doors to collect many of the signatures required for the permit to put on a fireworks display.

Mike Felhofer has been making candles in our community for years, but he is also one of the founding board members of the Door County Community Foundation, continuing to serve to this day. And his wife Tonya is the current Chair of the YMCA’s Board of Directors.

There are countless people like Skare, Hackbarth and Felhofer. These good folks are more than just business owners and managers. They are volunteers, civic leaders, and are an essential part of the health and vibrancy of our community.

Door County has a “Buy Local” effort for exactly this reason – because spending our dollars locally helps strengthen our community. Unfortunately because of the recent storm and the closure of the parks, some of our neighbors need the business more than others.

So if you’ve escaped this terrible storm unscathed, consider shopping or eating at one the businesses who experienced some of this “hidden” damage.

Heck, if you’re a married man like me, you can’t go wrong. I’m taking my wife out for dinner – by candlelight.