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Himes Tours Flood-Damaged Businesses

WESTPORT, Conn. – U.S. Rep. Jim Himes took a stroll along Westport's Main Street on Friday afternoon. But the Democratic congressman wasn't there to shop or grab a bite to eat. Instead, he was there to see how merchants were faring after Hurricane Irene.

During the Aug. 28 storm, the Saugatuck River overflowed its banks and flooded Parker-Harding Plaza and most of Main Street. As a result, some businesses sustained interior flood damage, others lost inventory and some saw both. That was the case at Bluemercury, a high-end cosmetics chain.

"We probably lost $10,000 to $15,000 worth of product," store manager Lynette Paschel told Himes, who represents the 4th Congressional District. "But some stores lost everything."

Inside the store, a section of the wood floor buckled from the flooding. Since the storm, Paschel estimates sales are down about $32,000.

Together with Tom Nocera, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Himes told business owners and managers about the federal assistance available to help them recover from the storm. First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury and state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg also took the tour.

Through the Small Business Administration, businesses of all sizes can apply for two different types of loans: a physical disaster loan and an economic injury disaster loan. The first provides businesses with money to repair or replace damaged property. The second is a working capital loan that helps businesses, whose sales were impacted by disaster, meet financial obligations.

After learning about the available loans, Paschel said she planned to pass the information along to corporate headquarters and to the store's landlord. Lisa Witthoefft, owner of LiLi Designs, said she too planned to apply for assistance. After the flooding, Witthoefft said the store's carpeting had to be ripped up and replaced. As a result, the store was closed for a couple days.

"The day before the storm, we removed as much merchandise as we could. It took a while to restock everything," she said.

Other stores that saw substantial flood and/or inventory damage include Chico's, a woman's clothing store, and Theory, a men and women's clothing store. Chico's is closed until further notice, and Theory plans to reopen Saturday.

For more information about the disaster loans, visit the Small Business Administration website . Application forms can be downloaded here . To apply online, click here. The physical damage loan applications are due by Nov. 3 and the economic injury loan applications are due June 4.

To contact reporter Vanessa Inzitari, send an email to vinzitari@thedailywestport.com.

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