Flossmoor businesses deal with downtown flooding aftermath

A record-setting rain Sept. 27 brought waves of destruction through Flossmoor, overwhelming the village’s sewage and stormwater system, flooding residents’ basements and stranding vehicles on waterlogged streets.
 
The cluster of small businesses in the village’s downtown was no exception.
 
The brunt of the damage hit Coldwell Banker, whose owners permanently vacated their corner office suite at Sterling Avenue and Flossmoor Road after water pressure from overflowing sewers broke off the business's doors and flooded its 5,000-square-foot space.
 
The entire Civic Center Building had several feet of flooding in the basement and sub-basement, which knocked out the boiler and hot water heater for all stores and apartments overhead. 
 
Affected businesses also included Dunning’s Gourmet Market & Deli, Express Yourself Beauty and Wellness Salon, the Conservatory Vintage and Vinyl and Love Noaa.
 
Mayor Paul Braun said he went out that Saturday to assess the “horrible” damage to downtown businesses, and he talked with many of the business owners as well as the building’s landlord.
 
“We talked about how bad the damage was and what steps we were going to try to investigate as far as possible state or county aid to assist in the flood damage here, and that’s what we’re working on now,” he said.
 
Village officials and members of the Public Works Department are considering their options for short-term and long-term solutions, he said.
 
Some of those options were explored during Monday’s village board meeting, such as appealing to state representatives or putting a referendum before voters to secure funding for multi-million dollar infrastructure improvements. 
 
It was suggested that major improvements could take decades without proper funding.
Braun said the village is asking everyone who suffered flood damage to document their losses.
 
“We will need that information to assess any county or state aid that might be available for this,” he said. “Keep good records and send the village pictures and information, and we will keep on with our end of the investigation.”
 
Marty Max, landlord of the Civic Center Building and president of MLC Properties and Management, said retail stores on the Sterling side of the street took on four to five feet of water in their basements.
 
Max said his company will likely have to look for a new tenant for the Coldwell Banker location. Owners of the real estate office had been planning to vacate, and the flood sped their decision along, he said.
 
“We were fighting for them (to stay), but because they were leaving they just decided, well this is it,” Max said. “They (took down) every sign; everything that says Coldwell Banker is completely gone, and we’ve got a huge vacant storefront in downtown Flossmoor.”
 
Max said the 3,000-square-foot room containing the building’s hot water tank and boiler was flooded with over nine feet of water.
 
The six-foot-tall hot water tank, which stood on cinder blocks that raised it a couple feet higher, was fully submerged, he said.
 
“That is like more (water) than two Olympic-sized swimming pools,” Max said. “It was unbelievable.”
 
Max said he rented industrial-sized sub pumps to remove the water, which took three days to complete. 
 
They were able to get started pumping that Saturday afternoon once Flossmoor’s sewers had caught up draining the overflowing flood water, he said.
 
A new hot water heater was delivered that next Wednesday, and it was working by Thursday, he said, adding that the apartment tenants were “unbelievably understanding” about the inconvenience. Max said he is currently having someone come in to look at the boiler.
 
“Since I’ve owned the building, which is ten-plus years, this is probably the third or fourth time this has happened, but never like this,” Max said. “In all my years of doing this, 25 years of doing this, I’ve never seen nine feet of water in a building. It’s unheard of.”
 
Anthony Fields, co-owner of the Conservatory Vintage and Vinyl, said he wanted to check on his store after closing at 7 p.m. that Friday, but the area was too flooded to return.
 
“When we came back (the next day), I immediately checked the basement and saw that it was flooded,” he said. “We had to try to salvage what we could, but the water was too high to do anything at that moment.”
 
Fields said he and his wife, who first opened the store in July, had to wait for the water to lower before they could try to salvage inventory in the basement; they started that Sunday.
 
“No furniture down there was salvageable, but there were records that we were able to salvage,” Fields said. “Not a lot, maybe 10 percent. Those we were able to salvage, the covers were gone.” 
 
Fields was optimistic, however, adding that the Conservatory still has lots of inventory on the main floor that was untouched by the flood, and the store has been able to stay open.
“It was bad, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t easily overcome,” he said.
 
The damage to Express Yourself Beauty and Wellness Salon has had a more dramatic effect on operations.
 
Max said salon owner Monique Mansker had considerable working space in her basement, including hair washing and drying equipment, a massage room and nail salon, all of which was damaged by floodwater.  
 
Flossmoor resident Larry Kane, owner of Jonathan Kane Salon & Spa in Homewood, said he invited Mansker and her co-worker to service their clients out of the available stations in his salon until they can get their space cleaned and back in order.
 
He said he volunteered to host the Flossmoor stylists at no charge when he heard of their unfortunate situation. It doesn’t bother him at all to be helping his competition, he added.
 
“There’s a lot of hair in this world, and there’s room for all of us,” Kane said. “For Monique to hit on hard times, and I’ve got space, life is too short to be that selfish.” 
 

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