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Some New York City Businesses Open During Hurricane Sandy

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An employee of La Delice came outside to bring the store's signature chef mannequin inside, though the shop remained open. | Katherine Bindley

NEW YORK -- The New York Stock Exchange may be closed and the city's transit system shut down as the city and surrounding region are expected to face billions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Sandy, but when staff at the Nut House hardware store on 29th Street near 3rd Avenue in Manhattan says they're always open, they mean always.

"All night. We never close," said store manager Govinda Shrestha, who is planning to maintain his policy of staying open 24 hours a day, no matter how bad the storm gets.

On Monday morning, the winds were picking up, the rains weren't far behind, and a nearby streetlight had already been taken out, but several area businesses -- either by choice or by necessity -- were intent on taking measures to ensure it would be business as usual for the next few days.

For Shrestha, that will mean personally shuttling his employees to and from their homes in Queens until the MTA resumes service. Six workers will be working until 8 p.m. this evening, at which point Shrestha will drop them off and pick up the other four people who will work the night shift.

Despite the inconvenience, hardware store customers have been preparing for the worst by buying up flashlights, batteries, lanterns and tarps. So the move to stay open has been good for business thus far.

"We are three times, four times as busy as regular times," Shrestha said.

Last year, a similar rush came ahead of Hurricane Irene, but Shrestha said many customers later came back to the store looking to return the products they had purchased. His decision not to allow returns for such items came a day too late, and he ended up allowing more refunds than he would have liked. This year, he was more prepared.

"We have a new policy for this hurricane," said Shrestha, who had posted a sign by the register several days ago to alert customers that all sales would be final. "We don't take back any hurricane-related items."

A few blocks south at the Sunflower Diner, manager Greg Dimitros said that he, too, was operating a little differently this year after seeing what happened with Irene.

"I think it was overblown," Dimitros said. "We decided not to listen to the news this year.

To that end, the diner will be maintaining its normal hours -- 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. -- during the storm. Dimitros said that the restaurant would be paying for taxis so that all of its employees could make it in for their shifts. Even the diner's delivery men would be making their regular routes. Being among the few dining establishments in the area to be open, the restaurant didn't have one free table at noon.

"It's end of the world busy," Dimitros said. "I'm overwhelmed here. I've got so many orders to take care of."

Next door, at the 24-hour Red Pepper Deli, the line was consistently 12 people deep around the lunch hour as people ordered sandwiches and grabbed last minute items like Campbell's soup and 12 packs of Budweiser. When someone in line asked the cashier whether they'd be staying open all night, the cashier smiled and told them "yes."

"We don't have a gate. What am I supposed to do?" she said.

At a nearby 7-Eleven, manager Khagendra Bhattarai said he'd be staying open all night as well. When Bhattarai heard from a customer that the Dunkin Donuts across the street would be closing, he immediately put on more coffee in anticipation of seeing more customers than usual. He's already sold out of milk and ice after an abnormally busy weekend.

"Yesterday, I sell 300 cases of beer. I sell 90 cases of water," he said.

On the other side of the street, La Delice pastry shop had little to offer in the way of hurricane essentials, but their signature mannequin sporting a chef's outfit was parked by the front door, with the shop planning to be open until 6 p.m., just like any other day.

"We have to pay the bills," said George Anastasis, who has been the bakery's manager for 36 years.

Unless Anastasis wakes up tomorrow morning to find a tree blocking his door and preventing him from leaving his house, he said he would be returning to work first thing in the morning, and that his staff would begin baking between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

In all the years he's served as manager of the bakery, the worst weather event Anastasis can recall is the blizzard of 1978. The store was open then, too, and they ended up taking in some of the homeless to offer croissants and milk.

"We never close here," Anastasis said. "My mother passed away, we closed one day."

A few hours later, the winds got stronger, and an employee of La Delice came outside to bring the chef mannequin inside. But the sign on the door still said "open."

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