North Cove Outfitters survives a 'perfect Norm' event

What do you get when you combine 10 inches of rain on the same day as a full moon and a high tide? For North Cove Outfitters in Old Saybrook, Conn., winners of the 2009 SNEWS®/Backpacker Retailer of the Year award, it meant five weeks of subsequent ground water being forced up and into its building.
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What do you get when you combine 10 inches of rain on the same day as a full moon and a high tide? For North Cove Outfitters in Old Saybrook, Conn., winners of the 2009 SNEWS®/Backpacker Retailer of the Year award, it meant five weeks of subsequent ground water being forced up and into its building.

Norm Cavallaro, co-owner of North Cove Outfitters, told SNEWS, “When I chatted with a friend of mine in the insurance business about the storm and full moon and high tide and then what happened to our store, he responded, ‘Sounds like a perfect Norm.’ Hey, no matter what happens, you have to keep your sense of humor!”

How the staff managed is somewhat amazing to Cavallaro. The buyers and managers actually worked at their desks with rubber boots on and two inches of water on the floor for several weeks. They have since been upgraded to offices in the storeroom, using shoe shelves for desks. For almost five weeks, the store had to have a pump running 24/7 just to keep up with the water seeping in from the drains, cracks in the floor, and almost any opening at ground level and below. The basement of the store was closed to customers for over a month.

“Unfortunately, this is a non-insurable event as it was ground water, not a flood. Damage is in the six figures, though most of that is the responsibility of the landlord who, also unfortunately, just told us he’s uninsured for this as well,” said Cavallaro.

He estimates that damages to store property, including merchandise, could run as high as $60,000, for which he has $20,000 of coverage thanks to a little-known insurance clause. He recommended all retailers check to see if they have it too: a sub-limit clause covering them at a minimal amount for damages for ordinarily non-insured events.

“This last month has just been another example to me of how great my staff is…we have the greatest people in the world,” Cavallaro told us. “In another life, I must have done something really good to deserve a team like this.”

The staff at the store shot some video during the cleanup. After some editing and addition of music, they loaded it up to YouTube for all to enjoy. Click here to share in the joy

In an ironic twist, following a month of pumping, mopping and sopping up the water from a flooded basement -- which housed the paddlesports department -- the store’s paddlesports kickoff sale weekend, May 1-2, in the parking lot generated much stronger sales than last year. Like snow for skiing, maybe all the water had customers really anxious to start paddling -- even if it was in the store’s basement.

--Michael Hodgson

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