The morning after Hurricane Sandy pulled away from Long Island, West Islip resident Danny O'Donnell and his wife trudged their way south through flooded streets to the Great South Bay where their restaurant, Tres Palms, is located. What they found was heartbreaking.
"There was four feet of water down here," said O'Donnell, who said waters were up to his chest as he arrived on October 30th. "We knew we were going to be starting from scratch."
Just over a month later though, Tres Palms will return to business – as normal as possible – on Thursday evening.
"We've got new sheet rock everywhere, dishes are cleaned, we're ready to go," said O'Donnell in his main dining room, which looks as though the October hurricane never occurred.
The atrium of the restaurant, a noted favorite for customers with its wide windows and beautiful view of the pool area and the bay, was lost during the storm, collapsing onto the dock. O'Donnell and crew have put up a temporary new atrium although the area will remain closed for now.
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The day after O'Donnell first laid eyes on his restaurant, his family helped start the clean-up process when something unexpected came along – help. 25 volunteers from Calvin Klein at the Tanger Outlets helped form a huge line to clear and clean the restaurant out by removing furniture and cookware.
"We did six days of work in that one single day," he said. "What a huge help." The restaurant, he estimated, took a rather big financial hit but are prepared to go for the long haul.
"We recognized the fact our neighbors are hurting," O'Donnell said. "We going to be making more comfort foods and make it easier for people to come here anytime... we want to give them a place to go."
The restaurant had previously opened for a single night on November 21st for a pre-Thanksgiving bar event, but has been closed again to complete the inside of the building.
O'Donnell said the menu for Tres Palms will be limited for the first few weeks, but will expand as new equipment for the kitchen arrives.
"We've got power and gas – we're good to go," he said. "It's really important to get our neighbors back to normalcy."