Optical Industry Regroups and Begins Relief Efforts in Wake of Hurricane Sandy

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NEW YORK—Optical retailers, eyecare professionals, labs and suppliers continue to regroup, build back and help out in the wake of Hurricane Sandy which hit so much of the TriState region hard just over a week ago. Relief efforts are growing as well. See prior VMail coverage

Complications after the storm were still hampering recovery eight days later and many businesses in New Jersey, Long Island, N.Y., Southern Connecticut and New York City were still hard to reach or unreachable at VMail's presstime.

Ruth Domber, owner of 10/10 Optics in midtown Manhattan, was spared damage to her store but has felt the drop in appointments and foot traffic.

"We were out of power for a week, so we had no business, which is always a tough thing," Domber told VMail. Despite business being down, the store has been making an effort to help those who need it since reopening Monday morning. “People have been coming in for substitutes, so we’re scrambling to get things as quickly as possible for people who need it,” Domber said.

The store is reaching out to customers and non-customers alike whose glasses were lost or damaged. Domber emphasized that in situations like these, opticians should be willing to lend assistance any way they can, along with anyone able in the community. “There are ways to help. Different opticians are reaching out, and everyone should. Call your local politician, your priest, your rabbi, or a social worker, and say ‘Hey, if you know someone who’s fallen through the cracks, we’ll help them.’ If you haven’t been hurt, you try to reach out if you can.”

Other New York City area retailers who faced similar situations are also in the process of returning to normalcy. Mott Street Optical, located in lower Manhattan, experienced minor damages but is back in business this week. "We are slowly recovering right now," said owner Kenneth Ma. "It's been tough for the past week."

Moscot, a retailer with three locations in the area, endured similar conditions in the Flatiron District, Lower East Side and Brooklyn. "We were closed for a week with no power, but luckily didn't suffer too many damages," a spokesperson said.

On the supplier side, Long Island based New Millenium Eyewear was hard hit. The company had moved from its long-term base in Oceanside, N.Y into a brand new office and distribution center in Freeport, Long Island, just 70 days prior to Sandy's destructive slam into the South Shore. New Millenium president, Ed Chernoff, told VMail that the company lost a lot, "Except, thankfully, for much inventory, although our phone systems, computers, offices, and most everything else was flooded." But, he said, the company is regrouping and will be in touch with customers and will be shipping soon from temporary facilities.

David Byck, of Long Island based OpSales, also told VMail that the company was without power and communication systems for over a week but would be back in touch with customers soon and requested that its customers bear with them during this time. "We are eager to fulfill your orders. We have been without power and unable to receive e-mails, phone calls and faxes. Our warehouse is intact and will be actively fulfilling orders once power is restored. Thank you for your patience as we get back to full steam. Our thoughts are with those affected by Hurricane Sandy."

Somerville-based Viva International Group re-opened its New Jersey headquarters on Nov. 5, after its closure due to Hurricane Sandy since Monday, Oct. 29. The storm hit the Northeast area with its devastating wind, rain and storm surges, causing havoc for the many Viva employees, including the loss of homes and vehicles, a statement from the company said. "Fortunately, there were no reported sustained injuries or deaths among Viva’s 337 employees in the tri-state area.

“Most importantly, to all those affected by Hurricane Sandy, our hearts are with you,” Viva’s interim president Sherry Lay said. “Please know that Viva wishes everyone the best possible recovery.”

Viva’s parent company, HVHC Inc., based in San Antonio, Texas, offered strong support including a generator, supplies for Viva associates and customer service support. Customers were able to place orders through the Viva website, while the company worked diligently to ship everything out on a timely basis.

The distribution center and customer service department remained on call throughout the weekend, while Viva’s facility was re-powered. On Monday, Nov. 5, Viva was able to have its full staff return back to their departments.

“We are grateful to all of our employees for their commitment and patience during this challenging time, and value our customers for their support” added Lay. “We saw the strength of our employees helping others in times of need. We are fortunate to be able to provide full service to our customers. However, we remain sensitive to those still in need of assistance and will continue to provide additional support to our associates as they get back to some normalcy.”

Adding to relief efforts, Santinelli International is donating $500 for each lens edger sold throughout the month of November to the Red Cross Disaster Relief program. In addition, the company and its associates are banding together, collecting donations to aid in the hurricane relief efforts. Santinelli, the leader in lens finishing equipment, is based on Long Island, N.Y., an area that sustained widespread damage from Hurricane Sandy. Although company associates, their families and the office itself were spared any severe damage, the hurricane's effects have touched the lives of all.

According to Gerard Santinelli, president & CEO, “We all want do our part in some way, especially since so much of the damage occurred virtually in our backyard”.

Edger sale donations will be made on behalf of the purchasing practice and will enable the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance to those affected by this massive storm.

Additionally, donations independent of any purchase can be made directly to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.