Jewelers in Houston say they are still getting their bearings after the searing experience of living through Hurricane Harvey.
The category 4 storm dumped as much as 50 inches of water on parts of America’s fourth-largest city, resulting in extensive flooding that caused over 60 deaths and billions in damage.
And while the jewelers JCK spoke to said their stores made it through pretty much okay, they also want the world to know their city is still devastated.
One store, Zadok Jewelers, is located in an uptown area that was largely unaffected by flooding. It reopened last week, although executive vice president Segev Zadok admits it hasn’t exactly been overrun with customers.
Many of its employees aren’t back to work either, as they are still dealing with flooded houses.
“I have a couple of people who said they are not going to be coming in for weeks,” he says.
The experience of the hurricane is one he won’t soon forget.
“I have been through several hurricanes,” he says. “This wasn’t like that. It was just an insane amount of rain. You looked out the window and it kept raining and you said, ‘When is this going to stop?’”
Overall, he realizes that jewelry isn’t top of most local residents’ minds right now.
“It will affect business for a couple of months, but I think eventually business is going to come back,” he says. “We celebrate life’s happy occasions here. You will still have people who want to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries, engagements. It will come back. It will just take some time.”
Another store, Rice Village Diamonds, did suffer some flooding and some damage, particularly to its computers. But it was still able to reopen yesterday.
“If you look at [our area], it’s back to normal,” says manager Gil Maor, store manager. “If you look at it, you wouldn’t recognize it.”
But the rest of the city is still very much scarred.
“One of our employees had to move into an apartment and is keeping everything in storage for a few months,” he says. “Some areas are still flooded. It’s a huge challenge. There is just an overwhelming amount of water in many areas. This was really a new level of disaster.”
And of course, there are concerns about business.
“I’m trying to stay positive because engagement is our bread and butter,” he says. “I know regardless of the situation people want to get engaged. I have to assume the last thing people want to think about is luxury goods. I’m sure it will be more of a challenge. But it’s Texas. I’m sure it’s going to come back big time.”
And there is one somewhat silver lining to the endless rain cloud: “At least it’s the end of summer. It’s not the busiest season to begin with. I can’t imagine if this happened around the holidays.”
Rex Solomon, owner of Houston Jewelry as well as secretary-treasurer of the Texas Jewelers Association, says he has some experience with bad hurricanes, having lived through Hurricane Ike in 2008.
“In some ways, this was worse,” he says. “But the way that it isn’t worse is that a lot of us know how to do deal with it. There also hasn’t been widespread loss of power, which makes it infinitely more miserable.”
This time, his store was without power for three days and has to deal with roof leaks and wall leaks.
“It’s mostly just annoyances,” he says. “In Ike, our North wall and West wall were physically detached by the winds and the whole storefront fell over. So that was much more serious.”
His store reopened last week, but traffic has only been sporadic.
“It’s a watch battery here,” he says. “We are doing a lot of organizing and cleaning up and just trying to keep employees busy.”
Still he’s hoping things will pick up by December.
“After Ike, we had an okay Christmas season,” he says. “So we may still have a season. There will be millions in construction money coming in. I don’t think it will be gangbusters but we have bigger problems.”
And he is heartened by how the city has come together. One local furniture store, he says, made its beds and mattress available to anyone without a home, even before shelters opened.
“That’s the way this city is,” he says.
Of course, if you’re a local jewelry store, you at least know that when you close during a hurricane, most of your customers are hunkered down with you. But the people at Brian Gavin Diamonds, a Houston e-tailer, had a different problem. Their office was unaffected by the storm, but their customers hail from all over the world. And in some cases, they were counting on them coming through.
“There was one person getting married on Saturday and needed the rings,” says vice president director of marketing Danny Gavin. “It was scary. FedEx, UPS, everything was shut down.”
The solution: CEO Brian Gavin drove to the nearest town, College Station, and sent the items from there (pictured, below).
Needless to say, a hurricane isn’t exactly the best to time to make that trip. Many of the main roads were flooded, and so what was usually a three-hour round trip ended up taking five. But the site ended up saving that sale, though Danny Gavin admits a few simply couldn’t go through.
Still, even though the Gavins’ business is getting back to normal, they are still affected by the devastation around them.
“It’s crazy,” says Danny Gavin. “On the one hand, everything is back open. On the other, certain neighborhoods are literally destroyed. The news makes you think this is all over but it is going to take months for things to return to normal.
Still, he adds: “Houston is an amazing place. It’s an example of a city that no matter your race or nationality, people are working together and it’s an amazing thing to see. But people still need to donate or help in any way they can. You hear all the news about Irma. But you also don’t want people to forget about us.”
Jewelers can donate to Harvey victims at Texasjewelers.org.
(Top three images courtesy of defense.gov and the U.S. Air National Guard, fourth image courtesy of Brian Gavin Diamonds)