photo: Esther Henry

ORANJESTAD – Local businesses of St. Eustatius are waiting to hear back from the 2.6 million euro relief fund from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in the Netherlands. “I’ve sent my application but still no response. There is the need for more government assistance”, says Blue Bead restaurant owner Marva Welcome

Welcome said, “It was scary knowing how strong the hurricane was that came. We planned to do a grand opening on October 8 and 9, however the hurricane slowed us down. The morning after the hurricane, a huge tree fell on the roof leaving one piece damaged. During September – November we experienced a great financial loss.”

‘Hurricane slowed us down’
Lena Courtar owner of Papaya Inn says, “In October, we wanted to upgrade the rooms’ furniture to a more modern look as well as to plan for the restaurant. However, hurricane Irma slowed us down. Unfortunately, we had 30 days of seven rooms forced to cancel due to St. Maarten’s situation. We also lost trees and our flora, but hurricane Maria brought rain to help the regrowth. We didn’t apply for the government funding, since we lost very little.”

Management employee at Gem Gift Shop states, “We experienced a loss in electricity and internet resulting in lengthy communications with each other. However, the business itself has a great infrastructure and opened again two days after the hurricane.”

New local entrepreneurs
Sjahairah Fleming Owner of Vitality Beauty & Spa: “Officially, we opened on the 21st December of last year, but it was planned to open in October due to hurricane Irma. The week of the hurricane, the container that had my items was stuck in St. Maarten and it was lost. Of course, it was nerve-wracking for me as I was clueless, but then it was received two months later.”

Fleming continued, “Start-up funds were difficult however, I was chosen by the Business Association to receive funds. One of the commissioners, Mr. Derrick Simmons, surprisingly visited us for one of our offerings.”

Another local business being two years of age, Mobile Delicious, is owned by Vaughn Sams. “Prior to the hurricane, we wanted to venture into more international fast food cuisines and Indian dishes in efforts to cater to the new demographic contract workers and locals alike. This is still pending. After the hurricane, business was at a halt, due to many road blockages and loose wires for about 2-3 weeks.”

Getting supplies
Sams continued, “There was also a slight increase in our prices, due to the difficulty with getting our supplies from the other islands. Airlift can be quite costly. The deplorable road conditions are also challenging to us as one new tire sets us back near $250 locally. However, progress is being made in small increments and I believe that it is just a matter of time before most if not all roads are repaired and replaced.”