Keene, NY: Wake Up Call Rebuilds After Irene


[Photo: Keira Baker]

Last week we learned about how Hurricane Irene effected local farmers in upstate New York, but they weren't the only ones hurt by the storm. Many small businesses in the Northeast were also deeply hurt by Hurricane Irene, or Tropical Storm Irene as it was classified by the time it reached the North country. One such small business was Wake Up Call, an espresso bar in Keene, NY, about 15 miles from Lake Placid and a 4½ hour drive from New York City.

"We were just a local espresso bar for anybody who enjoyed espresso, cappuccinos, those type of drinks; we were filling that niche," said Josh Josten, who owns and operates the cafe with Andrea Hoffman. Irene unleashed devastating flash floods in the area and a record quantity of rain. Some businesses in Keene saw minimal damage, while others, like Wake Up Call, now have a lot of rebuilding to do.

That rebuilding is already on the move—when I spoke to Josten on Monday he was waiting for rain to clear so repouring the building's foundation could commence. After that it's on to plumbing and electrical work to restore the cafe to its former glory.

While the flooding was devastating for the cafe, Josten has been blown away by the support from local community members, neighboring towns, and the National Guard. "People have been taking days off of work, volunteering their dump trucks, and the National Guard has all the machinery necessary to clear large amounts of debris." Yesterday a large group from Lake Placid came by to lend a hand.

While the short term outlook is quite positive, the long term is less clear. Keene lost a lot of the trails, ponds, rock climbing, and other attractions that draw people to the area, and road closures have made it nearly impossible to reach the town. "It's Labor Day weekend and it's absolutely dead," Josten noted, adding that no one is quite sure how far down the line the town will regain that business.

Still, Josten seemed optimistic: "To anybody who's ever volunteered when your neighbor is in crisis, a big thank you. Because without those extra hands, it'd be a much rougher road for sure."