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Allen Brothers still struggling after flood

WESTMINSTER—Tropical Storm Irene’s floodwaters have returned to the Connecticut River after filling the Allen Brothers farm on Route 5 in Westminster with five feet of water, and the Allens and their employees are trying to rebuild.

The store has partially reopened, and the company hopes to have the farm stand fully operational by Thanksgiving, said Stacey Allen, who runs the farm stand, bakery, and deli with her husband Tim.

“We started strong and positive,” said Allen.

But waiting for the insurance settlement is another matter.

The Allens described the paradoxes, delays, and barriers to recovering their business with U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., during the congressman’s recent visit to the farm stand.

Allen Brothers grows squash, zucchinis, tomatoes, broccoli, and herbs on land located on higher ground, which remained dry.

Allen estimates Irene’s floods caused $600,000 in damage, but added that many expenses have not hit the balance sheet yet.

According to Allen, the steel-structure building remains sound.

“But the whole building needs to be rebuilt,” she said.

The basement needed “to be gutted,” damaged inventory discarded, the flooring torn up, display cases thrown out. Wiring needs to be removed after water swamped the building’s main electrical panel.

The flood also reached the company’s office and destroyed computers, paperwork, and files.

The road to recovery

First, the couple had to find out the classification of Irene’s damage — hurricane or flood — for their insurance declaration page, Allen said.

The farm-stand building was covered by insurance, Allen said, but the couple has yet to hear for how much the business will receive as a settlement.

Allen estimates that the payout for the lost refrigerators and their contents covered about a fifth of the damage.

The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) established a disaster fund after Irene, and the agency has awarded the company a loan. The Allens said they are trying not to touch the VEDA money until they have firmer numbers from their insurance adjuster.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggested that Allen Brothers take out a small business loan. The couple decided against this, said Allen, because it has a higher interest rate than the VEDA loan.

According to Allen, the couple has lined up contractors ready to start work once the insurance payment arrives.

The employees’ jobs at Allen Brothers were another casualty of Irene.

But, said Allen, some of their laid-off employees have returned as volunteers.

“The sooner we’re up and running, the sooner they can get their jobs back,” Allen said.

Allen said she feels blessed despite the damage to the business, because their family and home stayed safe.

“I just wish we had an answer,” Allen said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #124 (Wednesday, October 26, 2011).

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