Now and Then moves to higher ground
By Brian Sweeney
The results of large-scale flooding are widespread. In addition to the immediate reactions of protecting lives and property, the aftermath of a flood always leaves one big question: Am I going to stay at this location?
Char and Art DeBari, longtime owners of Now and Then Video in Margaretville, had faced that question on several occasions after their Bridge Street building stood in the midst of flood waters racing through the village.
The infamous January 1996 flood significantly altered the couple’s commercial property. The 100-year-old former horse barn that housed their video rental business was wet, but sound, after that flood. However, the carpet warehouse that shared part of their building sustained a huge amount of damage and a three-apartment addition at the eastern end of the building was knocked askew and was torn off.
Undaunted, the DeBari’s rebuilt their video store and expanded their operation after buying out Country Video in Arkville. A restaurant took over the former carpet storage area.
The store had previously sustained minor water damage in a 1993 flood and took bigger hits in 2004 and 2006 floods. Several smaller floods over the years had brought water right to the store’s doorstep. Depending on the forecast, the owners would pack up as much inventory as possible ahead of the flood and move the items to higher ground.
The August 28, 2011 flood was different. Char and Art were anxiously monitoring weather reports regarding the path of Hurricane Irene, trying to decide a course of action.
“We had gone home for dinner, but when the Albany station said we could receive 10 to 20 inches of rain in the Catskills, we came back, packed our stuff and moved it out,” Char recalls.
It proved to be very wise move as record amounts of water swept through the village.
When the flood had receded, it soon became apparent that Now and Then Video would need to find a new home — the flood had jarred the historic barn from its foundation.
“In the past, we figured that we owned the building and we had an obligation to rebuild,” Char explained.
With their building sustaining significant structural damage, the post-flood quandary of “Do we clean up and get back in business or find another location?” was answered for the DeBaris. They had no choice in the matter and on September 13, their building was razed.
Fortunately, the owners were able to find a temporary home in the former Radio Shack building on Route 28.
“We liked the space and, once our insurance came through, we decided to buy the building,” Char explained.
Now and Then Video began operation on Margaretville’s Main Street before relocating to Bridge Street in the early 1990s. For the first time, though, the business owners no longer have cast anxious glances at the TV every time the weather turns ugly.
“The Weather Channel is not on constantly. It’s a great relief,” Char noted. “Plus, it costs a lot to protect yourself when you’re in a flood zone.”
Along with peace of mind, the move to the new location is providing Char and Art with the opportunity to expand their business interests. After considering a number of options for utilizing the large amount of space in their new building, the owners decided to open the Crazy River Café and Deli.
Char worked for many years at local eateries and is well-versed in the restaurant business.
“She can cook!” Art laughed.
The transformation to ready the building for use as a restaurant is being performed in conjunction with a total makeover that includes a new roof and a paint job.
The video store has been moved to the lower level and work continues to get the café ready for operation by fall.
The changes for Char and Art have been significant during the past year. Despite all the work, they are finding the new challenges exciting.
“We’re out of the flood zone, it’s fantastic – and our video business is comparable to what it was before, even though people don’t watch as many movies during nice weather,” Char explained.
Then, in a final irony, she pointed out that in the video rental business, “Rain is good to us.”
It’s even better now.