One Year Later: Owners unsure of Surf City business’ future after hurricane

One Year Later: Owners unsure of Surf City business’ future after hurricane
SwingBridge Cork & Brew bottle shop re-opened just months after Hurricane Florence but its future remains uncertain. (Source: WECT)

SURF CITY, N.C. (WECT) - Laura Staton and David McCormick quit their corporate jobs in Raleigh in the spring of 2018 to chase a dream.

They bought a home and moved to Surf City where they opened the SwingBridge Cork & Brew bottle shop. Seven months later, Hurricane Florence knocked out chunks of the roofs at both their shop and home.

“It has made us question whether it was the right move, whether it was the right time and we’ve had to grapple with all of those questions and we’re still grappling with some of them,” Staton said.

When they were finally able to return to the island after 10 days, they found severe water damage at both locations.

Staton stopped at the shop first, where the roof had failed.

“I literally opened the door, smelled the stench and saw the mold. I closed the door and locked it and came home because it was at that point I knew things were not good," she said.

At home, her roof was torn open over the kitchen and in her bedroom.

“It really took me off my feet, and, and I just walked around in a daze for a while just looking at everything, unbelievably looking at all the damage we had,” she said. “The ceiling was laying on our dining room table. There was water everywhere and it was very clear to me that we’d sustained a lot of damage.”

Their home was gutted down to the studs and all walls, ceilings and floors were replaced. They say they feel lucky repairs were completed relatively quickly but after three months out of business and going into the winter season, things were tough.

David McCormick says they’re not alone and he hears about struggles with business around the island.

“Their businesses are down 20-30 percent for the year, if not more, and again the beaches may be ready, but the rentals aren’t and that’s the problem,” McCormick says. “The storm and the lack of renters on the island for this year, that’s what really affected our business, the lack of renters on the island.”

There were days immediately following Hurricane Florence when Staton and McCormick were ready to throw in the towel and give up on their dream.

“The spring [of 2019] and summer was better, but not as good as last year and we have struggled ever since then to stay open and we are again at that point of wondering ‘have we made the right decision’ or are we going to have to close, we’re not sure at this point,” Staton said.

Despite their ordeal, McCormick says he knows had they not moved to Surf City and taken the chance on a new life they would have regretted it. Staton says the experience has made her a stronger person.

“I feel like I’m a stronger person. I feel like I could go through something horrendous and make it, and if we could do that then we can face our next challenge,” she said.

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