Already Closed from COVID-19, Calcutta Businesses Hit with Flood

CALCUTTA, Ohio — A single tear courses down the face of Zach Byers, owner of DC Music, as he watches tens of thousands of dollars worth of damaged inventory is removed from his store in the Dunham’s Plaza, 15765 state Route 170.

He holds it together while discussing the nuts and bolts of the damage caused when a storm raged through the area Saturday afternoon, bringing flood waters into the plaza and into his business, which had already been closed for a week due to the coronavirus and the stay-at-home order set down by the state.

But, when he tries to speak of the outpouring of support from the community which began as soon as photos of the flooding surfaced on social media, he suddenly stops and can’t go on, struggling with his emotions.

And that first tear falls.

“I can’t believe how many customers reached out to us, offering support and prayers and asking if there is any way they can help out,” Byers says as his eyes well up with tears.

“Our customer base is what has allowed us to be here this long,” he continues, emotion choking his voice. “Their support, their thoughts. That’s what matters most to us. Things can be replaced, but seeing the outpouring from the community and customers is special to us.”

Unfortunately, the reality also must be confronted. Byers says flood waters rose between four and six inches inside his 3,000-square-foot store, damaging not only the interior but also what he estimates could be the better part of a third – or upwards of $100,000 worth – of the instruments he had on display.

He says it appears the main outlet drain for the plaza in its parking lot was blocked, and the rain just had no place else to go. Whether or not his insurance will cover the damage remains to be seen.

“We reached out to our agent, but we haven’t heard back because of the weekend,” Byers says.

From what he has been told, the normal insurance he carries may not cover flood damage.

Byers has operated in the plaza, owned by Center Associates Realty Corp. of Pittsburgh, for 20 years, with the music store previously located in the storefront now occupied by Mattress Emporium, which he also owns. That business and others in that area of the plaza were not damaged by the flooding.

Calcutta floods

He moved the music store to its current space three years ago, offering instrument sales and lessons. He fears the flood waters may also have damaged some of the partitions and walls for the rooms where lessons are given.

On the scene at 8 a.m. Sunday was Brad’s Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning, owned by Brad Gilson, whose crew of workers was completely gutting Byers’ building to prepare for water restoration.

The crew was moving loads of musical instruments to a warehouse used for the mattress company, where Byers said it will be assessed to determine the amount of damage.

Gilson, a community resident who grew up nearby, says he will do all he can to assist this fellow local business owner, especially if it ends up being a “self-pay” situation that insurance won’t cover.

His company has also been hired to clean up the nearby U.S. Post Office, where he points out water appears to have risen several inches into the lobby.

Several other businesses operate in the plaza, with Dollar General, Beresford’s Meats, Cheap Tobacco, One Main Financial, Szechuan Chinese Restaurant, Cricket and Rent-A-Center each apparently suffering some flood damage.

Various cleaning companies were in effect Sunday, removing water from inside the stores.

Other businesses, such as JoAnn Fabrics, Goodwill, Verizon, Sherwin-Williams, El Paso and King’s Jewelers did not take on any water, although Dunham’s Sports reportedly had some water damage at the rear of their store.

Jim Sabatini, owner of Sabatini Shoes, says his store also escaped water damage, but he was working when the storm hit and water coming from the roof of the nearby Aldi grocery store “looked like Niagara Falls.”

Aldi was open for business as usual on Sunday.

Sabatini, also a St. Clair Township trustee, says local businesses, including his own, have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and says the flooding will just make it worse for those that were damaged.

“Look at the parking lot,” he says, pointing to a lot usually full on a Sunday afternoon that contains just a smattering of vehicles, most at the grocery store.

He is one of the lucky ones whose store is considered “essential” due to the number of construction workers who purchase footwear. Two customers are in the store searching for work boots as Sabatini was interviewed.

“We’ve been in business 50 years and this is unprecedented,” he says of the effect the pandemic is having on his and other businesses.

Saturday’s rain was also unusual, he says, noting, “We’ve had torrential downpours in the past few years, but this was unprecedented.”

He says the plaza storm sewage system was full during the downpour and water just had nowhere to go.

“It was strictly a volume issue,” according to Sabatini, not bad drains on the part of the plaza.

A creek behind the plaza also flooded, causing some water to enter the American Structures lot where preconstructed buildings are sold, but Sabatini said none of that water ended up in the plaza.

Pictured above: Calcutta volunteer Firefighter Laura Beverly surveys the flooding that ravaged Dunham’s Plaza in St. Clair Township Saturday, causing considerable damage to businesses, including DC. Music. (Image submitted by Reina Linville)

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.