Eleven restaurants in downtown Andover remain closed and without gas after the gas leak on September 13. The gas leak closed approximately 150 businesses downtown, according to Ann Ormond, the Town of Andover’s Director of Business, Arts, and Cultural Development.
Many stores’ sales have been impacted due to limited access to their appliances, lack of customers, and forced temporary closures. Local stores have reported a cancellation of appointments and a decrease in business due to construction in the aftermath of the gas leak restricting residents’ ability to get downtown.
May Doherty, the owner of Chic Consignment, said, “The construction has started, which is great because it’s going to help and it’s fixing things. But we’ve seen a big impact in our business because no one can find anywhere to park. There are detours everywhere and I think people are just sort of throwing their hands up.”
The closure of downtown restaurants has also affected students.
Gwen Empie ’21 said, “Particularly, Perry’s Plate and UBurger, [which are currently closed], were hangout spots for me and my friends. But since they have not been reopened, our friendships have dwindled. And I cannot get the same food that I used to love.”
Many shop owners expressed their concern about the lack of foot traffic due to the closing of roads and sidewalks.
Restaurants have been hit particularly hard, since many cook with gas-run appliances. Popular locations like UBurger, Perry’s Plate, and Casa Blanca remain closed. Others have resorted to providing limited menus and purchasing water heaters, but they still find their sales affected.
Carlos Q., a shift supervisor for Bertucci’s, said, “Since we haven’t gotten the service back, we don’t have gas at the moment, we are not able to sell any pastas or anything that’s grilled. Lots of people are going somewhere else just because they can get more stuff over there than over here. Customers still think we’re closed. They’re surprised that we’re open.”
The lack of food venues and variety has also limited the delivery options for students on campus.
Izunna Obiora ’22 said, “I remember this one time I had to go to bed hungry because Domino’s was closed and I couldn’t get my two large pepperoni pizzas and a Sprite. So that was a sad experience for me.”
Some businesses, such as Dovetail Apothecary of Beauty, are concerned about the coming winter and the need for heat and hot water. Eventually, it will become too cold to operate properly without gas-powered heat.
Sofia Alexander of Dovetail Apothecary of Beauty said, “We lost a lot of business because we had no hot water… We will be very seriously impacted if we don’t get heat.”
Other restaurants are feeling an increase in business due to the lack of options in the downtown area. Bob Kelley, a manager for Caffe Nero, reported a spike in business the weekend following the gas leak, since it was one of the only food establishments open.
Columbia Gas began construction on October 1 to install new piping and gas meters on Main Street, according to the “Greater Lawrence Area Restoration Program — Gas Ready Construction Plan.” All construction is estimated to be finished by November 19.
At the Town Hall, a claim center assists residents and businesses in the process to receive funding or file a claim for any damage the gas leak caused, according to the plan.
This, however, can prove unpredictable, according to Jackson-Bailey.
“You know, being evacuated and [the] days closed [resulted in] a lot of lost revenue, and now it’s the waiting game of will they accept a claim, will they take a claim. It’s in their ballpark and not ours, unfortunately,” said Jackson-Bailey.
A one-million-dollar emergency loan program for affected businesses was announced by Governor Charlie Baker, according to Boston.com.
Despite their losses, businesses in Andover are supporting each other and the community. Chic Consignment recently raised $1,000 for the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund. Several owners reported that residents of the community have been purchasing from downtown stores to support local businesses.
Stores have also been giving back to their customers.
Andrew Alvarado, the main receptionist of the Robert Jason Salon, said, “We still had electricity, so we could still do hair… It really was a nice experience and a really nice highlight to [clients’] really terrible week to be able to come in here and still get their hair done and still have a nice hot blow-dry to warm them up.”
Jackson-Bailey said, “The community has been the biggest blessing to each other. The gas company and whoever else is involved is doing what they can but the community pulled together as a team.”