After Gaston, Charley, and Frances

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Gone are the hurricanes of August and September, but for the affected bookstores in the Southeast, memories of lost business days, ruined merchandise, and massive clean-up efforts linger. Most stores contacted by Bookselling This Week are open, with or without repairs completed. Building materials and labor are often in very short supply. The big question for all is, will tourists and local shoppers return for the holidays?

On Florida's Sanibel Island, hit hard by Hurricane Charley on August 13, both MacIntosh Bookshop and Sanibel Island Bookshop escaped serious damage, but business was affected nevertheless. Holly Smith of Sanibel Island Bookshop told BTW that the store is back to normal now but having to close for a total of seven weeks, during the hurricane season, has hurt. "The island looks just beautiful," Smith said. "A few trees are still leaning, but we're ready for the tourists. We are just hoping that they all come back."

"Rapidly approaching normal," is how Sheila Grange, manager of Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Florida, described the store's current situation. "We lost our upstairs offices when the second storm hit," she said. We have now consolidated three offices into one, and the bookkeeper is in the closet. The retail part of the store is coming back to normal. We had some water damage in both our main store and our children's store but most of the merchandise was out of the way. Now we have to hope that the seasonal visitors have hotels to return to. People are concerned about hotels that may not be open."

Cheryl Krauth, co-owner of Wild Iris in Gainesville, Florida, remembers that on her first day as a business owner, 70-mile-an-hour winds, due to Hurricane Frances, forced the store's closing that day and for the next two. Now, she told BTW, "Business is pretty much back to normal. We were closed for a while with minor problems. We reopened, and for a few weeks business was very slow. People spent most of their time cleaning and getting the trees out of their roofs. Things picked up and now has business has slacked off again."

In Richmond, Virginia, slow-moving Tropical Storm Gaston caused tremendous damage, far more than the faster-moving hurricanes, which hit the area. The first floor of Cafe Gutenberg, a bookstore and Internet cafe in the city's flooded Shockoe Bottom area, was under six feet of water. Fortunately, according to store, and now restaurant, manager Jennifer Clayton, the building has a second floor, which has now been set up for food service and minimal book sales. "As of September 25, we were back in business," she explained. "We lost 10,000 of our 11,000 book inventory. Contrary to what we originally thought, we didn't have flood insurance so we are looking into some grants and loans. We're asking people to bring in 10 or more good books, and we give them cards for 20 percent off. By the beginning of December, we hope to have a decent number of books, but the restaurant is the great bulk of our revenue. --Nomi Schwartz