Most of what we’ve been discussing up until now concerns physical damage from the storm. The unequivocal evidence that scattered around the media like so much confetti has taken our main focus, leaving many oblivious as to what else this storm has done. We are all focusing on the enormous power unleashed on our homes of wood and metal. But something I never thought about during the aftermath story selection is the massive shift of priorities to deal with, and the additional stressful plights that have captured the minds of storm surviving residents.
Economic damage is epic in the post-Sandy days. And part of that is because businesses that may not have sustained physical damage have other things to deal with. Power outages, communications, the loss of customers due to their loss of homes and needs, delay of services, demand from corporate entities for bill payments—it’s a whole string of dominoes that once tipped, falling all the way to the very end of the process. I recently received an email from a studio in Old Bridge, New Jersey, that is dealing with this very type of situation. Here is their story:
Joe & Crystal Cattano – Aarius Studios
“In the days prior to October 29, we were proactive in preparing our studio for what was being called ‘The Perfect Storm.’ We moved all of our equipment to the center of the studio and shut down our entire electrical system to avoid the expected electrical surges powerful enough to blow out all of our musical equipment. What we were not prepared for was the almost full month of no power and telephone service due to the tremendous volume of downed trees and power/phone lines in the area.
At the time the storm hit, Aarius Studios lost power. One might say that event, in and of itself, was not a big deal, and we would wholeheartedly agree. However, Aarius Studios’ rehearsal and recording business operates specifically by means of electricity. Yes, we know ‘all businesses are run on electricity,’ but the core of our services (in addition to time and space) rely specifically on our many ‘wall outlets.’ We cannot operate our business through any alternate means—ledgers, notebooks, lanterns, etc. Additionally, without phone lines we lose business (as other businesses), but we lose it by the hour if our studio rooms sit empty.
What came next may come as a surprise to some, but definitely something that no amount of planning could have prevented. Even after services were restored, we never imagined it would be months before families and businesses were able to start finding their way back to ‘normal.’ Every day we heard the many heartbreaking stories of how countless members of our studio family musicians experienced the wrath of Superstorm Sandy. So many lost their homes, neighborhoods, vehicles, jobs, musical equipment… the list of devastation goes on and on.
Soon, the voluntary effort of rebuilding communities was upon us. In the four months following Superstorm Sandy, our studio saw very little business. Although a small fraction of the money we were accustomed to seeing was coming in, it was not enough to cover our monthly expenses. We quickly began falling behind in meeting our financial obligations including, but not limited to, rent, utilities, and repairs.
We know some of you may be asking, ‘Why not apply for a small business loan?’ Unfortunately, banks are unwilling to approve loans for struggling small businesses in this economy, especially in the wake of a hurricane disaster. Our studio insurance only covered a few days of ‘service interruption’ and FEMA isn’t an option because fortunately we sustained no structural damage. Yes, ours is a complicated situation.”
Joe and Crystal have recently started receiving musical community assistance with the launching of their GoFundMe program. The program is a comprehensive platform that has enabled them to raise sorely needed funds in order to keep the business operating in this time of crisis. This is a great idea that allows friends and community members alike to donate funds to get the music back and out there.
Perhaps this is the way of the future? It makes sense to me, as it doesn’t appear that immediate help will be forthcoming from our elected officials and their glut of federal programs. I guess only time will tell, but I wish the Cattanos and Aarius Studios good fortune in riding out this rough time and keeping their doors open.
If you would like to help, or are curious as to how this program might work for you, head over to gofundme.com. You can also check out the Aarius Studios page at aariusstudios.com. Go keep them in business.