Gov. Dannel P. Malloy led federal officials through Overton's Seafood in Norwalk Saturday afternoon to assess the damage Hurricane Sandy wreaked on the tiny wooden shack that has stood by the water for 64 years.
Malloy greeted the owner, Chris Gavrielidis, saying, "How are you? Sorry for your troubles." The owner said they were going to stay open until Thanksgiving, but had to close early.
Gavrielidis showed them how the water knocked out the back and side walls of the restaurant and knocked over a giant cooler. His nephew said once the water got inside the structure, the waves kept crashing into the walls until they broke.
The purpose of the visit was so members of the U.S. Small Business Administration could discuss the disaster benefits available to get the business back up and running. The SBA has streamlined its online process for applying for disaster loans.
Officials chose Overton's because it's a good example of a small business that was heavily damaged by the hurricane and might be in need of assistance.
"This is emblematic of the people we have to help," Malloy said. "This is what the federal government does."
After stepping outside the building, Malloy called the damage "pretty ugly," and added, "I guess it shortened the season, but they'll be back in March."
Overton's, which has a popular waterfront deck, was founded by the late Willis Overton in 1948 and sold to Gavrielidis 12 years ago. The Greek family also owns the Harbor Lights restaurant next door.
"I think anybody who's been in Norwalk for a long period of time has been to Overton's or one of the establishments owned by the Gavrielidis family," Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said.
Moccia said Overton's has been an institution in Norwalk forever and on a warm summer day people are lined up to get clams, hot dogs, hamburgers and more.
"They managed to continue what the Overtons started," Moccia said.
On Monday at about midnight, Gavrielidis said the water was up to his elbows inside the little red building. Eventually, the ocean and the pond across the street from the business joined to become one body of water, he said.
Before the storm hit, Gavrielidis said they moved several pieces of expensive equipment, such as computers, out of the business. He wasn't sure what the total cost of damage will be, but said the cooler alone will cost about $3,000.
"The insurance company hasn't been out here yet to see the damage," he said. "It's hard to say."
While Overton's has had its share of flooding in the past, including some during Tropical Storm Irene, Gavrielidis said it's never been to this level. He said he spoke with one of the former owners, who said they've never seen anything like this happen.
Members of SBA said they work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide federal disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, homeowners, renters and nonprofit organizations.
"We just basically came to get a sense of the damage," said Emily Cain, a spokeswoman for SBA. "We work with FEMA. They give grants and we give loans."
According to SBA, the new application will take less time to complete than the previous application that took borrowers through 80 screens. The application is four pages for homeowners seeking disaster loans and three pages for businesses.