A quick look around the just opened Flatbush, Brooklyn location of
After receiving a hard hit from Hurricane Katrina last year, Empress Audio's two stores, here and in Gulfport, Miss., sustained over a half million dollars in damage, only to see sales skyrocket shortly afterward.
Owner Floyd Seal said the influx of construction and FEMA workers in the area, plus residents replacing their vehicles, lead to a near doubling of sales from September through December 2005 for the two-store chain that sells only car stereo.
“The business was unbelievable, with no advertising. There was FEMA money floating around, and a lot of contractors in here, people replacing their vehicles and doing upgrades and just crazy business,” Seal said.
While sales have returned to “more normal” levels, Seal expects to more than compensate for the lost sales last fall by the end of this year, virtually erasing the Katrina damage, “assuming we don't get another bad storm,” he added.
During Katrina, Seal's Gulfport store suffered ongoing looting, and 53 arrests were made at his store alone over nine days. “We kept trying to secure [the store], board it up different ways. We backed vehicles up against some of the doors, but with no power or alarm system, there wasn't much that could be done,” Seal said.
Empress' Pascagoula store suffered roof damage and leakage so that 50 percent of the inventory and fixtures were damaged, and fixtures are still not completely restored, Seal said.
Industry members helped the retailer including Brian Schmitt from Mobile Solutions and local Rockford rep Bo Lamar, both of whom spent several days helping to remodel.
Seal is still in the process of settling on insurance claims. He notes, “It could have been a lot worse if the building was totally destroyed. A lot of businesses here are just getting back on line. That would have been the kiss of death, to be out of business for six months.”
Seal, a board member of the Mobile Enhancement Retailers Association is in the process of opening a third store in Ocean Springs, Miss.