On Sept. 20, 2011, Tio Pio co-owner Javier Espinoza of his Spanish-American food chain's Willoughby Street location, nodding his head.
"We're insured," Espinoza said. "Thank god."
Eight months later back at 65 Willoughby St., sitting in the fully restored dining area that reopened May 5, Espinoza admitted that, no, he wasn't prepared enough.
"We were insured, but we weren't ready for damage like that," he said of the fire, which he said started in the beauty shop located above his business.
In a conversation Tuesday during Tio Pio's bustling lunch hour, Espinoza sat down with Patch and talked about some of the challenges he has faced—and his advice for fellow small business owners.
Patch: What have the last eight months been like for you?
Espinoza: I've been here all the time. I've had to work through every single mess—And there was a lot to work with.
Patch: On Sept. 20 of last year, you told us that your business was insured? Was that correct?
Espinoza: We were insured, but we weren't ready for damage like that. Now I learned from experience...though it was hard to learn that way. But you have to be really, really well covered.
Patch: How did your business cope during that time?
Espinoza: The only thing was the location on Court Street—that helped us place some employees. Out of 15, only two ended up leaving. We were able to keep on 13 employees without reducing salaries.
Patch: Do you have any advice for business owners stemming from this unfortunate experience?
Espinoza: We were lucky to have really loyal customers who were willing to wait for us. We just got lucky. We owe everything to them.
**Ed. note: This is the second installment of a weekly feature focusing on local businesses and local business owners.