Boiceville supermarket back in business

Above: Flickr slideshow of photos from the reopening of the Boiceville Supermarket IGA, Thursday, October 13, 2011. Photos by Julia Reischel.

Shopping for groceries isn't generally one of life's more festive activities. But in Boiceville today, it felt like a birthday party.

It's been over a month since a cash register rang at the Boiceville Supermarket IGA, which was taken out of commission by a river of mud during the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene on August 28. Today, October 13, the supermarket finally opened its doors once more.

Store manager and co-owner Richard Occhi said that employees and customers alike were relieved to see the store open again.

"I've gotten handshakes and hugs," he said.

Cleaning out the store, which was left mired in mud and ruined groceries, was no small feat. The floor was completely destroyed, and had to be replaced, along with much of the sheetrock in the building. To get mud and debris out of the store, the crew -- which consisted of about a third of the store's approximately 45 employees, plus some local volunteers -- rented a mini-bulldozer called a Dingo.

After all the debris was out, the entire building had to be pressure-washed and sanitized. Then there was reconstruction to do: repairing and replacing electrical wiring, equipment, sheetrock and flooring.

Occhi said the store went through eight 30-yard dumpsters during the cleanup process.

(To get an idea of how much work it took to get the Boiceville IGA ready for business again, check out the video at the bottom of this story, taken three days after the flood.)

Occhi estimates that between cleanup costs and loss of business, the flooding cost the store over a million dollars -- none of which, he said, was reimbursed by FEMA.

"All they were offering is a low-interest loan. And I don't have another 22 years in me to pay it off," he said.

Occhi wasn't too happy with his interactions with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, either.

"They made the cleanup more costly and were an extreme distraction," he said.

There was, however, a bit of a silver lining in the IGA's cloud of woe -- or maybe an aluminum one. Occhi took advantage of the downtime to build a new beer cave in the store.

"I figured, if I had no customers, I might as well put in something I've wanted to put in for years," he said.

Longtime Chichester resident (and IGA regular) Jen Dragon, who we caught up with near the produce section, was delighted to see the store open again.

"I love this place. I practically live here," she said. "What's really impressive about this place is it's like a boutique grocery store. This is the only place around here you can get Fakin' Bacon. And the guys who run it are really Italian, so there's good Italian soul foods here, good Italian brands."

For her part, 19-year-old cashier Lauren Elmendorf is glad to have her job back again. She's been working at the IGA for about a year and a half.

"People are so thankful that we're back open," she said. "A lot of people don't like to go all the way to Kingston for groceries."

With the store open again, Occhi said, he can finally relax a little for the first time since the floods.

"I've been here for the last six weeks, every day," he said. "Now that I'm open, I can take a day off."

Below: Video of flood damage to the Boiceville Supermarket IGA. Taken on August 31, 2011 by YouTube user TJTele.