‘I just hope locusts aren’t next.’

Businesses seek flood answers from the city

Issaquah business owners announced this week that costs to repair their flood-damaged buildings will hit six figures, as city officials seek to review their own response to the recent flooding.

Gilman Square Shopping Center business owners voiced their criticisms and compliments during a joint conference with Issaquah Chamber of Commerce representatives and city personnel on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Gathered outside of Lombardi’s Neighborhood Italian restaurant, the group of affected business owners detailed the damages they sustained and offered tours of waterlogged stores.

“Some of these businesses have been seriously impacted (by the flood) and people may not realize that,” said Larry Ishmael, interim CEO for the chamber.

Lombardi’s closed on Jan. 8, but President Diane Symms said she hopes to re-open by the end of the month.

The flood left the restaurant soaked in about 20 inches of water and 4 inches of mud.

It had to be gutted once the waters receded.

“The equipment we had in there has been damaged beyond repair,” Symms said.

The restaurant lost nearly all of its kitchen equipment, furniture, carpeting, about $10,000 worth of food, and drywall on the bottom two feet of the walls.

Symms has estimated repairs will cost around $250,000.

The restaurant is covered by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, which will cover the damaged items, but won’t cover lost revenue or employee pay.

Because the business is located in a flood zone, most insurance companies won’t provide flood insurance.

Symms said she has lost about $100,000 in revenue so far, and her employees have been without pay for three weeks.

Mitch Setlow, owner of Leathers, had about one foot of water in his store after sandbagging.

Approximately 130 pieces of leather furniture were ruined, which Setlow estimates between $600,000 and $700,000 in retail value.

A few paintings, the walls, and about 12 years worth of paper records were all destroyed.

“You know, a run down shopping center, plus the worst economy I’ve ever seen and you throw in a flood? It’s the perfect storm,” he said. “I just hope locusts aren’t next.”

Like Symms, Setlow is also covered through FEMA flood insurance.

The gathered businesses owners stressed that the city needs to take steps to mitigate future flooding.

Economic Development Manager for the City of Issaquah Dan Trimble listened to the critiques and offered what help the city has: providing tips on how to report damage assessments and contact information for charitable service organizations, and answering clean-up and recovery questions.

Unlike Lombardi’s and Leathers, many stores in the plaza don’t have insurance.

“(The flood) was devastating,” said Patty Green, owner of Sisters Antiques. “Thousands of items were lost.”

Despite efforts to sandbag, the water in the store was about a foot deep and many items were left floating in the muck.

And when the water drained, the wall-to-wall carpeting and Persian rugs were unsalvageable, soaked in dirty water and mud.

Green said she doesn’t know the cost of the damage yet, and is still waiting on the insurance adjuster to arrive.

In the meantime, a number of community members have stepped in to help move items from the flooded store to an empty space at the mall.

“I don’t even know who they were, but the outpouring of support was just incredible,” she said. “What sets this apart to me is the support from people who don’t have to do this.”

In an attempt to help businesses without insurance, the Chamber of Commerce has opened an account at the Issaquah Community Bank in order to accept donations.

The assembled business owners emphasized that they aren’t out to attack the city, but that something must be done to prevent future flooding.

“I’m not here to chastise anyone, but someone could have been down here, delegating how to resolve what is a resolveable problem,” Setlow said. “This isn’t the Ganges, it’s not a gulf, it’s a little stream that runs behind some buildings. This meeting will never take place again if the powers that be take initiative.”

Make donations to uninsured businesses at the Issaquah Community Bank, and donations to the Lombardi’s Employee Flood Relief Fund through Viking Bank, P.O. Box 70546 Seattle, WA 98127.