After Black Out, Businesses Sputter Back To Life In Back Bay

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The utility NStar says it will not reimburse customers for losses related to the power outage caused by a substation fire on Tuesday. That's troubling to some Back Bay businesses that are slowly returning to normal operations after a difficult week. While it's not yet business as usual, they are at least glad to be back open for business after the costly power outage.

The sound of crying babies is a welcome sound to store manager Amanda Rush at Isis Parenting at the Prudential.

So is the sound of music over the loudspeakers. So is the sound of cash registers printing out receipts. Because those sounds faded into darkness on Tuesday night when the power went out.

"We had staff still here [until] our regular closing time of 9 o’clock," Rush said. "They were working in the dark and selling strollers by cell phone light, all that good stuff. But then over Wednesday and Thursday we had to cancel all of our classes.

Rush says Isis Parenting has now been able to reschedule most of those classes so no one misses out. Inconvenient, annoying, but at least the service can be made up. Lost sales are another story.

"Retail-wise, if people get into the routine of going elsewhere, then what does that do to our business? That’s a little tough to measure," Rush said.

Rick Waechter is starting the measure the damage at his business on Mass. Ave. He’s the CEO of Boston Magazine.

"We're on deadline this week, we’re a monthly magazine," Waechter said. "All of a sudden you lose a day in the schedule in a critical week, that’s a lot of time."

And money. The company spent close to $4,000 to rent an office and computers in Waltham. Staff worked there until one in the morning Thursday night to make up for lost time.

"You know it was a pain for our staff," Waechter said.

But Boston Magazine made its deadline. And the company has business interruption insurance that will reimburse it for the office rental and other expenses.

Food is being served again at Thornton’s Restaurant and Cafe, a little bit of greasy spoon tucked between an apartment building and a hotel along Huntington Avenue. Matt Prizand is the manager, his father's the owner. And Matt looks tired. He says work got crazy when the power came back on Friday morning.

That was the tip of the iceberg, getting electricity back. Then all the dirty stuff started coming out. What do we have to replace? Where are we gonna get it? Our suppliers, can they deliver today? Do I have to go get something? It was the biggest scramble," Prizand said. "We were here from five o’clock in the morning. Just trying to figure everything out."


Prizand says it was impossible to plan for the restart because NStar kept changing the expectation for being back on the grid. Thornton’s does not have business interruption insurance so Prizand is tallying up the cost to his business. He’s thinks the utility should pay up.

"We don’t have a figure yet. NStar said they were going to cover food loss, but now they’re not," Prizand said. "It all depends on what they’re gonna do. It’s a wait-and-see type of thing."

Inside the Prudential, bigger businesses got back to business. Workers pushed through the lobby’s revolving door to head back up to their re-lit offices. One of the companies in the tower will take longer sorting through aftermath of the power outage. That’s NStar. The utility’s corporate headquarters have power again on the 17th floor.

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This program aired on March 16, 2012.

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Curt Nickisch Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.



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