While devastating a portion of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S., Hurricane Sandy affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people … including some tanning salon owners.
What began as a tropical wave in the Caribbean Sea became Tropical Storm Sandy within six hours. On October 24, it became a hurricane and eventually hit the U.S. five days later. As its gale-force winds, flooding and heavy rain inundated parts of the U.S., many indoor tanning salons were affected – while some had to close shop for a few days, others suffered actual damages, power outages and other setbacks. Even so, these indoor tanning professionals were able to persevere because it’s hard to keep a good salon owner down!
For Copper Tans Salon in Succasunna, NJ, Hurricane Sandy was about helping the people in the community. “To be honest, we were very fortunate,” said Nicole Flora, Copper Tans owner. “The worst thing we experienced was our outside sign getting blown away, and that was replaced by our landlord. We didn’t even lose power – we were one of the two businesses within a 14-mile radius that didn’t.” Because of Nicole’s marketing and promotional efforts, Copper Tans has always had a strong connection to its community – that became even stronger in the wake of the superstorm. “We put up a sign welcoming people to come in to warm up and recharge their cellphones and laptops,” she said. “We also allowed all of our staff and many of our friends and neighbors to do their laundry here. For many, this was a big help and we were happy to do it.”
Each year, Copper Tans holds its Tans-for-Cans charity drive and donates the food, items and money raised to a local homeless shelter. This year, Nicole decided to take a slightly different approach. “Everyone here is hurting so badly because of this that we’re choosing to give everything we raise to Sandy relief efforts,” she said. “We just want to help out as much as we can.”
With 50 stores all located in Sandy’s path, James Oliver knew that there was no way his Beach Bum Tanning & Airbrush Salons would be unaffected by the storm. For the most part, the majority
of the Beach Bum locations were only out of power for a couple days while two others suffered worse fates. “About 20 of those stores were without power for more than a couple days, with our location in Howard Beach, NY salon getting the worst of it,” Oliver said. “It was without power for two weeks, and the store was flooded with about 12 inches of water. Fortunately, all the equipment and the walls were covered by insurance, but there will still be a lot of clean-up work to be done.”
Despite warnings of Sandy’s approach, Oliver says there was no way to truly “prepare” for something like this. “The biggest thing you have to worry about is all the down-time you’ll have after the storm is gone,” he said. “Many of our stores were still out of power for nearly a week after the storm, and the ones that had it didn’t serve many tanners because the long lines at the gas stations made people want to stay home. As a result, business was down at least 50 percent after the storm and things are just starting to pick up.”
The recovery process for NY Sun Club Tanning and Airbrush in New York has been slow, says Mike Ami, the salon chain’s owner. “This happened right before Halloween, which is always a busy time for us,” said Mike. “One of our stores was without power for six days and, because of all the restrictions put on travelling in the city, it was virtually impossible for us to get to our other location. Even if they could, it wouldn’t have mattered because many of our clients were among those who were evacuated from the city for at least three weeks.” All told, Mike estimates that he lost at least $30,000 – $15,000 per store – following Superstorm Sandy.
Mike says he’s determined to not allow his experience with Sandy to bring him down. “I was certain that one of our locations was going to be flooded but was pleasantly surprised to discover that it didn’t suffer any damage,” he said. “I’m also happy to see that business is slowly coming back, so I guess there’s always a reason to be thankful.”
As you can see, it’s hard to keep a good tanning salon owner down. Perhaps it’s because the people who make up this industry are used to dealing with storms – each year, a “hurricane” of negative publicity warning people to stay out of the sun tears through the media outlets and threatens to envelop many sun worshippers and would-be tanners. After continually surviving that non-stop onslaught, picking up the pieces left in Sandy’s wake and carrying on wasn’t a difficult thing to accomplish. Helping people look and feel good might have become a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it!
Each issue of ist Magazine features stories filled with valuable and relevant information gathered from experienced tanning professionals. This month, a group of salon operators – who represent 32 years of combined industry experience – share their stories of the adversity they recently faced as East Coast business owners.
Nicole Flora Owner
Copper Tans Salon – Succasunna, NJ
11 years industry experience
James Oliver CEO
Beach Bum Tanning & Airbrush Salons – Parsippany, NJ
16 years industry experience
Mike Ami owner
NY Sun Club Tanning and Airbrush – New York, NY
5 years industry experience
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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