November 22, 2014

Elyria
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Findlay’s downtown already bouncing back from flood

FINDLAY — Downtown restaurants, gift shops and offices that took the brunt of last month’s historic flooding are beginning to open back up.

While a handful of storefronts are relocating or closing for good, the city’s downtown will bounce back, said Douglas Peters, who leads the area’s main economic development agency.

Business owners began ripping out waterlogged walls and floors and making repairs as soon as the water receded last month. Now dozens of shops are now open. Others that took on extensive damage have set up temporary shops elsewhere.

The downtown, Peters said, is well-positioned to recover because it has been a vibrant area and a focal point for the community.

“We’re a whole different breed of people,” said Elaine Bruggeman, who owns a bookstore and a deli downtown. “We do it because our passion is here. It’s going to take more than a little water to drive us out.”

Heavy rains dumped up to 10 inches during a few hours three weeks ago, bringing the city’s worst flood since 1913. The Blanchard River, which flows along the edge of downtown, rose eight feet above flood level.

Peters, who is president of GreaterFindlayInc., said business owners in the downtown area have not waited for others to help.

“Most of the merchants up and down that street are of the entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “It makes them by nature risk takers.”

There were about 25 restaurants alone in the area that catered to office workers and employees from the county courthouse and related offices. Marathon Petroleum Co. has about 1,500 employees at its downtown building.

“There are a lot of things in place that will help us maintain our downtown,” Peters said. “It’s always been a very vibrant place.”

He and a group of city and business leaders will travel to Washington this week to talk with federal officials about solving the city’s flooding problems.

Record store owner Greg Halamay said it would take too long and too much money to rebuild Finders Records Tapes & CDs, which has been downtown for 32 years.

“Putting a store that size together again, the whole idea is just overwhelming to me,” he said.

It would take four to six months to rebuild, Halamay said.

Water filled his basement and soaked the ground floor. He had 10 employees who are now out of work.

“The flood brought an overwhelming experience to a lot of people,” he said. “I’m one of them. This isn’t how I wanted to depart a city that helped us for 32 years.”

The owner of a diner that has been in the same spot since the 1940s plans to stay downtown but in another location.

Miller’s Luncheonette owner Greg Miller said his restaurant always seems to get hit hard when the river overflows and that it has become too costly to keep making repairs.