The news headlines and stories say it all: “Hurricane Ian Pulverized Fort Myers Beach.” “Ian Bludgeons Southwest Florida with Devastating Winds and Storm Surge.” “Ian Leaves Flooding and Damage Across Florida.”
Jewelers and jewelry store owners within Hurricane Ian’s storm path from Florida through the Carolinas say the rain, winds, and flooding were devastating. Ian caused severe damage to storefronts, and jewelers worry their holiday seasons will be equally hurt as people all around them try to recover from the once–Category 4 hurricane.
Karl Vice, owner of Infinity Diamonds in Port Charlotte, Fla., says his store received water damage last week as Hurricane Ian swept through. His store is in a strip mall, and some soffit and fascia blew off in the high winds. That damage allowed water to get into the ceiling, where it soaked insulation and some ceiling tiles.
“There is section of Port Charlotte where people’s roofs are sitting in the middle of the road,” Vice says. “Cars and boats were tossed around like toys.… I’ve been waiting to get power back to the store. The building may need some work, but I may be able to operate within the store. The merchandise is in the safe, and my cases weren’t damaged. I have luxury vinyl floors, and they’re waterproof so they’re not too bad.”
Vice says he hopes to be back in his store in the next few days or weeks, depending on how bad the damage is. Vice was in Miami for a jewelry show when Ian came barreling in, but Vice returned early to check out how his store fared. The nearest hotel room he could get was 90 miles away. Travel has been hazardous generally; Vice says it took an hour to go about six miles at one point.
The Louisiana-born Vice says he has seen hurricanes his whole life. He’s lived in Charlotte County, Fla., for the past 23 years. His last hurricane was Charley in 2004, and that one and Ian rank as the two largest storms ever to hit Florida in terms of scope of damage, Vice says.
“We’re lucky,” Vice says. But the holidays are in jeopardy—Vice says he makes about 30% of his annual revenue during December, and people likely aren’t going to be ready to shop for jewelry around his area anytime soon. He also has to rethink what he wants to spend on radio and TV ads.
The one saving grace, Vice says, is emergency workers such as plumbers, roofers, and the like will have lots of work and may want to buy jewelry soon enough. That’s what happened after Hurricane Charley, Vice says, and it was one of his best years ever. He hopes the same will occur now.
“I’m a sole proprietor since 2010, and I’ve been in the business for 34 years,” Vice says. “What do I do now? How much do I spend? How do I inventory? There’s a lot of questions.… Weddings have been postponed because venues have been destroyed. It will be a major inconvenience for months and years to come.”
Jeweler Karen Moore says she lives about 20 miles away from Key West, Fla., and her inventory for Zen by Karen Moore is in good shape after Hurricane Ian. However, there is a lot of flooding around her area because of the heavy rain and wind. She says many areas around her are suffering now, but the people in and around Florida will go to work and help each other out, just like the have done with previous storms.
Moore says she went through Hurricane Irma five years ago, and the roof on her rental home was destroyed. Her family home was untouched by Hurricane Ian, but the wait to see what would happen was emotionally exhausting, Moore says.
To help, Moore says she is giving back to those hit by Hurricane Ian with a fundraising event on her website, donating 15% of online sales of amazonite to those impacted by the storm in the lower Florida Keys.
“When [hurricanes] hit, you go day by day and just try to remember you will make it back,” Moore says. “We’re a resilient community. People are definitely helping each other, and we will recover together.”
Lindsay DuBois of Blue Adalines jewelry in South Carolina, just north of Charleston, and forecasters said they were in the direct path of the storm. DuBois was home when the rain and strong winds hit. The storm shifted enough that they did not receive much damage, DuBois says, and she is thankful that the power went out only for a short time.
“We were very fortunate that we did not have much loss, like the people of Florida. I know right now the small businesses of Florida are reeling and starting to recover from the storm,” DuBois says. “The holiday shopping season is right around the corner. When the small businesses of Florida start opening back up, if everyone picked one small business that was struck by Ian to support with a holiday purchase, it would be the most amazing thing.”
Top: Port Charlotte–based Infinity Diamonds is one of many Florida jewelry stores that was damaged after Hurricane Ian swept through the state. Jewelers of all kinds are now recovering and helping others find ways to rebuild (photos courtesy of Infinity Diamonds).@jckmagazine
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