When Andrew Carmines, owner of Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, watched the security footage from his restaurant while in Tarboro, N.C., where he and his family evacuated to escape Hurricane Matthew, he said he saw about 2 to 3 feet of water in the building for two to three hours.
After the power went out and the battery pack on his security cameras died, Carmines said he had to rely on news from someone else about the state of his family business before returning to the island.
When he saw the extent of the damage, he said, he was happy to see the structure was still standing.
“I think I just was more relieved than anything but also anxious to get reopened,” he said. “I think most of the anxiety or most of the shock and disappointment about the whole thing was replaced by kind of the reality that we needed to get working and get reopened right away, as soon as possible.”
That’s exactly what Carmines and his staff at Hudson’s did. What one contractor said was a four-month job turned into a business and community effort to get Hudson’s open in less than a month, according to Carmines.
The restaurant officially reopened Oct. 29 after being closed since Oct. 5, and their reopening night was attended by regulars, he said.
“I knew every single person that was here eating,” he said. “It was awesome ... just an outpouring of support from a community, and it’s just amazing to be part of that, it really is.”
The damage that Hudson’s received during Hurricane Matthew was unlike anything Carmines had ever seen growing up in the restaurant his parents owned. He said a neighbor’s dock slammed into the north side of the building, creating gaping holes in the packing house wall that allowed debris to end up in the restaurant.
“The water just rushed in like ... you turned on a faucet or turned on a high pressure hose,” he said. “And the other part of it is the water stayed in much longer than it traditionally does in a normal tide situation.”
Carmines said all the flooring, siding, bar and most kitchen equipment and all dining electrical outlets had to be replaced. The roof on the back dining room and the roof on the packing house were ripped off. Hudson’s had just completed a renovation in February.
“The staff at the restaurant absolutely made this thing happen,” he said. “We would be closed for another month if it weren’t for our staff.”
Though he was worried about losing staff members during the closure, Carmines didn’t lose a single worker and instead had somewhere between 30 and 40 employees help him with the cleanup and get paid for contracting work. He said staff were given their December bonuses immediately after the storm.
“I was surprised at how hard everybody worked, the amount of hours that everybody put in, and just the overall camaraderie and the family feeling,” he said.
In between work, Carmines would gather with staff at noon every day to eat a lunch that a few workers pitched in to make.
“Once we got through the initial shock of the thing, it was actually a lot of fun,” he said. “Really enjoyable, challenging, different kind of experience ... and I think we’re going to be a better restaurant as a result.”
For now, Hudson’s is officially open for business, with some work still in progress. The dock and deck, the most popular dining areas at Hudson’s, were destroyed by the storm. But to Carmines, it’s just a clean slate to make it nicer and more functional than before.
“It’s just exciting. I love projects, so all positive stuff now,” he said. “Now that we’re reopened and all the employees are back to work, a big weight has been lifted, so we’re looking forward to a very productive offseason and come back stronger than ever in January/February.”