On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and caused tremendous damage to the coastal areas of the city including a huge storm surge which flooded Lower Manhattan. At the time, Victor’s main business SUteiShi, a sushi restaurant located in the Financial District of Manhattan, was completely flooded with several feet of seawater and completely destroyed. SUteiShi was Victor’s only profit generating business, and was supporting the finances of a second restaurant he had opened in midtown but which had not yet reached profitability.
The catastrophe caused most of the Financial District to be closed down for more than a year. In the weeks and months after the flood, there were many infrastructure problems in the area and there was no certainty about when Victor could go into the building to begin repairing the restaurant.
Despite the devastation and lack of certainty, Victor made the decision to keep his staff on payroll, even though they could not work. According to his nominator: “Victor had always asked dedication of them to his business and considered them a family rather than just workers. He prided himself on being close with those who supported his business. He saw it as his turn to step up and support them, even though he was in no financial position to really give the support needed without it coming at a great cost to his own personal finances and his fiscal wellbeing”.
Lower Manhattan had not been flooded in 100 years, and in a stroke of luck Victor’s forum mate purchased flood insurance on his behalf the year before. Victor submitted a claim for $250,000 which was not enough to restore the restaurant but was enough to help him stay in business long enough to claw his way back to profitability.
While waiting for access to rebuild the restaurant, Victor had the idea to develop a delivery business to establish a continuous revenue stream. He identified a bakery in the area who was able to get operation fairly quickly and negotiated with the owners to use the kitchen after their 4pm closing. With the key 6 employees, they established a dinner delivery business. This had the effect of maintaining his client base and generating essential revenue to support the wages of his team. Instead of accepting any kind of charity, Victor also launched a campaign to pre-sell meals which would be redeemed when the restaurant was operational and in doing so raised another $50,000 to keep things going.
In Victors words, “The hardest thing was that every week was another week that went by and I could not get in to fix things. We were burning cash and the uncertainty was unbearable. Without a date to get back in it was impossible to schedule contractors to start work to rebuild the restaurant”.
Six months after the flood, Victor secured an SBA loan for $211,000, borrowed another $100,000 and with the insurance proceeds and $50,000 from pre-sold meals, and support from fellow EO’ers who did work at cost, he was able to rebuild the restaurant. Despite the financial difficulties, according to his nominator, “According to his nominator, “Even though Victor was in a bad spot, I saw him engage in anonymous acts of generosity. Whenever he saw others struggling, no matter how bad it was for him, he was always putting others first”.
Victor has distinguished himself with exemplary resilience in the face of extremely difficult circumstances that represented a high risk of putting him out of business.