CSX and EverBank have reopened downtown. So has The Jacksonville Landing.

 

Wells Fargo has not. Neither has European Street or Bistro Aix and there’s no telling how long it will take for those two San Marco mainstays to resume business.

As Jacksonville dries out after Hurricane Irma’s deluge and straightens up from its wind, area businesses are getting back to work. Most of them anyway.

So many businesses were affected in so many ways, from high water to downed trees. Grocery stores opened, but many had empty shelves and freezers that had to be emptied because everything hadn’t stayed frozen. Restaurants opened with limited menus and many other businesses opened with limited staff.

Some of the larger employers downtown returned to work Wednesday. CSX did not have water in either of its buildings on Water Street, but had to wait until the parking lot drained.

EverBank was back in its local headquarters on Bay Street, bringing 1,400 employees back into EverBank Center. Kipin Alexander, a public relations specialist for the bank, said the building had no flooding and that all the branches in the area opened Wednesday as well.

Customers shouldn’t see any delay or effects, she said, because the bank’s work was being done. Fifty EverBank employees were bused to Charlotte last week so they could continue working. Others went to a satellite building on the Southside. Still more work was done in call centers elsewhere in the country.


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A spokesman for Wells Fargo said he wasn’t sure when the bank could return to the building that bears its name on Independent Drive downtown. Irma had turned the building’s underground garage into a swimming pool. Most of the bank’s branches have reopened, though.

But the fallen trees, the water, the downed signs are just the most obvious effects of Irma.

Paul Fadil, chair and professor of management at University of North Florida’s Coggin College of Business, said the major hidden business cost of an event like Irma is simply employee morale.

“At first, there’s a little bit of ‘Thank goodness we’re all OK,’” he said. “But then it’s obvious you’re coming back for triple the work. And you have people who don’t come back.”

A disaster experience, he said, is like a death in the family.

“It forces you to re-evaluate your priorities,” Fadil said. “If you had a flood, if you had a tree just miss your house, maybe you think you should be spending more time with your family.

“So employers will have turnover.”

The employees who do come back, he said, are often distracted.

“Maybe your spouse is still home cleaning up and you think you should be there,” he said. “Or you have to meet the tree guy or buy a new washing machine. There are just so many things you have to do to get your home back in order, but you’re at work.”

It generally takes employees about three weeks to get emotionally and productively back up to speed, he said.

In San Marco, Irma pushed up enough water to close at least two restaurants for the time being.

Bistro Aix had 3 to 4 feet of water in it for 12 to 16 hours, said Matt Mannick, president of Forking Amazing Restaurants.

“Now it’s the rebuilding process,” he said. “We’ve got to get ourselves fixed up and running. But we don’t know the extent of the damage.”

Construction crews will start tearing up floors and walls Thursday, he said. Everything has to be removed 18 inches above the water line — dry wall, laminate, everything.

“It could be three weeks,” he said, “it could be a month and a half.”

Andy Zarka doesn’t know how long European Street in San Marco will be closed. But he’s not guessing three weeks.

“I’m leaning toward months,” he said.

The restaurant has been on San Marco Boulevard since 2000 and despite the neighborhood’s well-known flooding, it’s never been a problem at that spot.

“Somehow, we’re on some kind of high point,” Zarka, the co-owner said. “One block north and one block south, water comes up over the median. But not here.”

It did this time, rising 18 to 24 inches inside the restaurant sometime Sunday night or Monday morning.

“The carpet is ruined, tile has come up,” he said. “Food will have to be thrown away, all the paper goods.”

They can’t really assess the damage until the power is back on and they can get it all dried out. But there was still no power by Wednesday afternoon.

The restaurant does have flood insurance.

“We had to get it when we had a mortgage,” he said. “But when we paid it off, I have to admit that I thought about dropping it. For this year, it was $7,500 due on my birthday. I thought about the other things we could buy with it.

“But I’m glad I pulled the trigger.”

Fadil said European Street is fortunate. It’s the largest companies that typically have all the insurance they need for damaged goods and lost sales.

“It’s the small Asian market across the street from Winn-Dixie that probably doesn’t have it. The small mom-and-pop businesses are the ones that take it on the chin because they’re not insured like they should be insured.”

Roger Bull: (904) 3459-4296