Hurricanes

Smithfield warehouse plans sale of flood-damaged inventory

Posted October 20

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— Water damage from Hurricane Matthew could put some Smithfield business owners without flood insurance out of business.

Perry Harris, the owner of an import business, said 20 inches of rain from the hurricane inundated his warehouse, at 1517 S. Brightleaf Blvd., which houses inventory for Carolina Pottery and other firms. He was able to salvage only about one-tenth of the more than $1 million in goods stored there, he said.

"It was a short-lived flash flood," Harris said Wednesday. "We lost the inventory plus the sales opportunities."

Harris, who has owned the business for more than 15 years, had no flood insurance because the 42-year-old warehouse, which once was used to store tobacco, wasn't in a flood zone. He estimated his losses at $2 million.

"I just don’t see how we can go forward. We have no money coming in," he said, noting that he has already encouraged his four children to look for another line of work.

"This could be it for us. It could be the end of our company."

Next door, Brian Barefoot faces the challenge of rebuilding his metal fabrication business, Atlantic Resources Inc.

"Water just took and rushed everything into the woods," Barefoot said. "We won't be up and running before March of next year. There’s no way we can get our equipment back here and inventory before then. We don’t even have a promise from insurance right now."

Both men said they and other small-business owners hurt by the hurricane desperately need federal disaster recovery assistance to get back on their feet.

"There's no coming back from this if we don't get assistance," Barefoot said.

"There's people like us all over eastern North Carolina, and I hope the government will help these small businesses who are typically sometimes, I think, overlooked," Harris said, adding that he's not sure he could even repay any disaster loans.

Friends and neighbors are provided the needed assistance in the short term, he said.

"We have had an outpouring from the community, people saying, 'What can we do?'" he said. "It’s been traumatic for us. We’ve got our faith and friends and will do our best to move forward."

Harris hopes to recoup some of his losses by holding a flood sale, saying salvaged Christmas ornaments, college gear and other items, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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