It has been about a month since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean.
We spoke with Jeff Donnelly, owner of The Jolly Dog stores, about the impacts the storms have had on St. John, his home and his three stores.
“My wife Tammy and I were just putting the finishing touches on the new store, The Jolly Dog Virgin Territory, when Hurricanes Irma and Maria laid waste to Coral Bay,” he said.
Hurricane Irma heavily damaged two of his three stores. Luckily, his home and the new Jolly Dog location were left unharmed.
“The silver lining to this story is our new location, Jolly Dog Virgin Territory at the ISOLA Shoppes came away undamaged. This will be where we start anew as the rebuilding process gets underway," he said.
The Jolly Dog Virgin Territory location reopened this week, with shortened hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
"We have leased additional space in the complex and look forward to offering the same quality brands and merchandise as we move forward. We have had a lot of relief personnel shopping, as well as locals looking to replace key items lost in the storms like straw hats and sunglasses," he said.
The eyewall hit Coral Bay with winds above 220 mph, damaging much of the island’s fragile infrastructure and natural resources. Over 50 percent of the roofs came off. There is no electricity on the island, and electric restoration is predicted to be months out.
“Our store there was badly damaged and suffered wind and water damage, as well as a spate of looting in the immediate aftermath of Irma,” he said. “We have been working hard to salvage damaged inventory since we have no content insurance, which is prohibitively expensive.”
“It is unlikely we will have power at the locations until 2018 at the earliest, so will rely on generators to open limited hours as we regroup and move forward with the biggest ‘staying in business sale’ we have ever held,” he said.
Despite the damage to his businesses, Jeff remains positive about the outlook of The Jolly Dog, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and plans to come back stronger than ever before.
In an effort to rebuild, The Jolly Dog is selling limited edition Hurricane Irma shirts on www.thejollydog.com. The profits from those items will support local charities and the rebuilding efforts of The Jolly Dog, which had no insurance to cover the losses.
“The impact of these storms on our fragile infrastructures was immense,” he said. “While there will be a rebuilding economy, it will take years before we are back to anything close to normal. So the new normal will prevail.”