Local News

South Raleigh businesses struggle to reopen after storms

Posted May 9, 2011 4:53 p.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2011 6:08 p.m. EDT

— Business owners near downtown Raleigh are struggling to reopen their doors three weeks after a powerful tornado carved a path of destruction along South Saunders Street.

The area is marked by piles of debris, caved-in roofs and heavy equipment tearing down buildings that have been deemed unsafe by city inspectors.

Earp's Seafood Market has reeled in customers for 43 years, but the building was condemned after it sustained severe damage in the April 16 storm.

Nancy Earp Salmon's parents started the seafood business, and Salmon now runs it. She said it "looks worse" than it did immediately after the tornado because rain has seeped in and caused additional water damage.

"It's an unsafe building," she said.

Earp's, which is famous in Raleigh for its flounder fillets, is waiting on a city permit that will allow the family to rebuild its business. Salmon said that once the permit is approved, she anticipates being able to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to reopen within three months.

City zoning officials have to approve the rebuilding plans to ensure they comply with new codes implemented in 2011 that would have otherwise been grandfathered for the existing Earp's.

"Permit, permit, please Lord, permit, (so) that we can tear down and start again," Salmon said.

In the meantime, Salmon is impatient.

"Every day we're not open is a day a customer might go somewhere else," she said.

The business does have insurance, which is providing pay for Earp's five employees while the store is being rebuilt.

Down the street, other businesses are leaving their storm-ravaged storefronts behind.

Ralin Henry, owner of Reliable Collision and Painting, leases his current building, which has also been declared unsafe, but he's hoping to get a permit to do some business in the vacant building next door. 

He applied for a federal loan from the Small Business Administration and said his insurance covered the cars and equipment that were damaged in his shop.

A backhoe tore through what was left of Coats Auto Body and Paint on Monday. A sign on the body shop's fence said it is operating out of a temporary location on U.S. Highway 70 East in Garner.