As a bright island in a sea of darkened houses, Rockville Centre’s downtown district has been a safe haven of electricity, food and warmth for residents of the village as well as Oceanside and Island Park in the days and nights following Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.
Spared by underground power lines from the power outages that left hundreds of thousands of residents across Long Island without electricity or heat, businesses in the village’s downtown district have been crammed with customers who, often more than anything else, wanted access to phone service and Wi-Fi to reconnect with loved ones and begin the recovery process.
Kevin Culhane, the owner of Churchill’s Restaurant and Bar, at 18 S. Park Ave., said customers began arriving when it opened on Oct. 30 and hadn’t stopped since. “It’s been very busy,” Culhane said. “It was to capacity a lot of the time — more than 150 customers with the outside area included.”
Culhane said that he alerted customers on Facebook that people could charge their electronics and get food and drinks, though the latter were difficult to keep in stock. The storm also slowed Churchill’s suppliers, and Culhane explained that it was difficult to provide as much food as people wanted.
The owners of Press 195, at 22 N. Park Ave., ran into a similar problem, but found that their customers were very understanding. “Just having our doors open was good enough for a lot of them,” said co-owner John Annechino. “We’re very grateful we had the opportunity and the power and to be a place where people can come, for 15 minutes or an hour, to take their minds off what’s been going on the past five days.”
The unfortunate stories that customers have come in with have been difficult to bear, Annechino said, adding that one of Press 195’s owners, who lives in Oceanside, lost two cars and suffered serious flooding in his house.
“Some people were pretty devastated and in tears,” Culhane said. “You’re afraid to ask people, ‘How are you?’ It’s heartbreaking.”