Clean-up for New Bo After Flood Threat

By Alison Sullivan & Nadia Crow, Reporters

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Vendors in the NewBo City Market began unpacking boxes and unloading coolers Monday after they decided to close the market over the weekend to prepare for potential flooding.

Jerry Zimmermann, owner of Maggie's Farm Wood-Fired Pizza, helped lug in his large wooden counter back into the NewBo's Rotary Hall. It was an "anxiety producing" decision to close down and pack up, he said, which included leaving behind his hefty $12,000 wood-fire oven.

The market is only open Thursday afternoon through Saturday and a weekend without sales impacted some business owners, who rely on income from the three days of sales, more than others.

Zimmermann said his business was fortunate to pick up the lost sales at other farmers markets with their mobile unit.

"Business goes on but this is the core of it," the 67-year-old from Iowa City said of the NewBo City Market location. "I don't know how it hurt the other vendors but it wasn't disastrous for us; it was an easy comeback. We're very lucky."

Others like Paul Habhab of Zaytoon Mediterranean Grill were hit harder. He said the weekend closure depleted a fourth of their monthly income.

The loss is more than just sales, he said. The grill's staff prepared about 50 pounds of onions, 30 pounds of tomatoes, and 10 pounds of olives to serve up for last week but instead went unused.

"You just keep plugging away and keep doing what you're doing," he said of the setback. "If this one week is the difference between making money and losing money at the end of the year, we don't deserve to be in business."

Mary Krivit, co-owner of NewBo Cheese Co. said she hopes this weekend's reopening will be busier than normal to help offset lost sales.

The New Bohemian district experienced major flooding during the 2008 flood, where the Cedar River rose past 30 feet. The Cedar River reached 18.23 feet early Sunday morning and receded to around 15 feet Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Craig Hanson, Cedar Rapids public works maintenance manager, said crews swung into "full flood protection mode" in New Bohemia as river level predictions took a worrisome turn on May 27. He said 30-40,000 sandbags were used to protect district businesses; a successful effort for an area that could have seen minor flooding without the extra protection.

Tony Bata, co-owner of Bata's Restaurant, said the business experienced a couple hundred gallons of water in the basement but cleanup is underway with the help of a sump pump. Bata, whose business opened in the district 10 months ago, said he knew he wanted to have his restaurant there despite the flood risks.
"It's a simple response," he said. "We wanted to be where the action was.
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