Bouncing back from a natural disaster can be difficult for anyone, but for the operator of Sally's Ice Cream it's been one thing after another.
Serving up sundaes, double scoops and banana splits at Sally’s Ice Cream on State Road A1A in Flagler Beach has been making co-owner Karen Barchowski’s day for the past five years.
But when storms flooded her shop in September, she wasn't sure what the future might hold.
Now after lots of hard work — and some help from fellow ice cream purveyor and friend Sandy Kinney — Barchowski is hoping for a grand reopening in April or sooner.
Bouncing back from a natural disaster like a flood can be difficult for anyone but for the New Jersey native, it’s been one thing after another. Hurricane Matthew flooded her Flagler Beach home in October 2016. Then last year, Tropical Storm Irma flooded the home of her mother, also a Flagler Beach resident.
After evacuating in advance of Irma, Barchowski returned to discover her business, which she purchased in 2012, had been flooded. The retired chef and Realtor said she worked with her landlord and insurance company to gut the building at 401 N. Ocean Shore Blvd. and start the renovation process.
“We sustained pretty severe damage from Hurricane Irma and so it’s been a long process,” said Barchowski. “I thought it could have been worse initially — so many had severe damage to their homes — but my attitude is: let’s get it done."
Five months later, she’s seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and with it some positive changes to her business. Barchowski hopes to reopen her ice cream shop by April. In addition to her shop's signature items, she plans to eventually add organic and more dairy-free options, as well as fresh lemonade and new and different toppings like granola and chia seeds.
“There are some good changes coming along and we’re taking this opportunity to make things even better," she said. "I’ve switched stuff around and am going to be concentrating on bringing it up to another level. I want to offer the best I have to give."
As for Kinney, she jumped at the chance to lend Barchowski a hand — or, rather, a mobile food truck. Today Kinney's truck, which she uses mainly in the summer months, can often be found parked at the site of Barchowski's closed business. It allows Barchowski to continue to serve customers from a limited menu of items.
Kinney said Barchowski supported her when she began the process of opening a mobile ice cream business in 2012 and while many figured the two women would be competitors, their friendship has endured and strengthened over the years.
“When I was fighting to become a mobile vendor, she was one of the people who was so supportive," Kinney said, "and that’s where we became friends.”
Kinney said Barchowski is always helping others and doing positive things.
"So to help her just made my heart feel good,” Kinney said.
Barchowski also credits the flexibility of Flagler Beach city officials for helping to get permission to use the truck to do business while her shop is being renovated.
“A shout out to the city and the mayor, because I had to get permission to put the truck here," Barchowski said. "They’re doing what they can. They’ve been very helpful.”
Flagler Beach Mayor Linda Provencher said helping local businesses recover from something like a hurricane is part of the mission for city officials.
“Sally’s is a community staple and it’s important to help our local businesses succeed after two hurricanes in their economic recovery,” Provencher said. “There has been no money coming in for them and their employees (have been) unable to work."