South Carolina business owners who rebounded after losing their entire inventory after a massive flood, Houston bakery owners who quickly reopened despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, a Texas mayor who navigated the town’s recovery after Hurricane Harvey, and a volunteer who organized the debris removal of a Georgia town hit by three massive storms, have been named winners of the 2018 Phoenix Award by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The awards will be presented by SBA Administrator Linda McMahon on April 29, during the National Small Business Week kickoff event at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C.
Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.
Michael Marsha, Owner, and Ginger Marsha, Head Designer, Buyer & Sales Manager of Forest Lake Drapery and Upholstery Fabric Center, Inc., in Columbia, South Carolina, will receive the 2018 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.
Forest Lake was ground zero for a monster storm in October 2015 that dumped 18 inches of rain on the area within 24 hours. After the flood, Michael and Ginger Marsha returned to their business—a retail fabric store serving South Carolina and cities in North Carolina and Georgia since 1964—and surveyed the widespread destruction. The force of the flood blew a 20-foot hole in the back of the building. Bolts of expensive fabric were washed downstream, the building was nearly destroyed, and the store’s entire inventory, valued at $1 million, was ruined.
Michael and Ginger were smart about rebuilding. They secured a temporary space to store fabrics and samples. Since the store’s second floor escaped damage, they used that space to run the business. The couple used the company’s cash reserves to keep their seven employees on the payroll.
The couple received an SBA disaster loan for $735,000, which they used to rebuild the property, replace inventory, and install storm shields to protect the property from future floods.
The following year, Forest Lake Fabrics saw back-to-back months of record sales.
Janice Goldsmith Jucker, President, and Robert Brian Jucker, Vice President of Three Brothers Bakery, Inc., in Houston, Texas, will receive the 2018 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.
Three Brothers Bakery, Inc., opened May 8, 1949—four years to the day after brothers Sigmund, his twin Sol, and younger brother Max were liberated from a Nazi concentration camp. Over the years the business has survived four floods, a fire, and two hurricanes.
Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area on August 25 as Janice Jucker, who manages the marketing and business end of Three Brothers Bakery, and her husband Bobby Jucker, son of co-founder Sigmund and an award-winning pastry chef, were preparing to fill orders for their clients’ Rosh Hashanah celebrations.
The baking area and store were inundated with five feet of water as Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 30 inches of rain within four days. Loss of inventory, equipment and down time cost the company $1 million. The Juckers and their team worked around the clock, scrubbing the equipment they were able to salvage. The SBA disaster loan for $873,000 allowed them to purchase new equipment and supplies, and hire extra employees to help during the holiday season.
Three Brothers Bakery reopened just 17 days after the storm, and six weeks later, they were able to return to normal operations.
Charles Bujan, Mayor of Port Aransas, Texas, will receive the 2018 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official.
On August 24, 2017, Mayor Charles Bujan took a calculated risk and ordered the evacuation of 4,059 Port Aransas citizens as Hurricane Harvey bore down on the island. The mayor hunkered down at a command center in Corpus Christi.
Within two days, Hurricane Harvey had become a deadly Category 4 storm packing 130 mph winds. Mayor Bujan returned after the storm had passed to find 95 percent of the businesses were damaged, and most of the island’s homes were critically damaged or destroyed.
He immediately arranged for teams of bulldozers to remove water-logged debris that littered the city’s only road into or out of town. He posted his personal cell phone number on the city’s website, making the needs of the disaster survivors a priority. The Mayor also arranged for the disaster recovery centers to operate out of the city’s Community Center.
Mayor Bujan was a tireless advocate, testifying before state legislators and doing countless media interviews to make sure Port Aransas was not forgotten. Daily, he visited businesses to check on their rebuilding progress.
The recovery of Port Aransas, particularly the city’s tourism infrastructure, continues. Mayor Bujan’s unbreakable spirit and his deep regard for the citizens of Port Aransas have become the solid foundation of the town’s renewal.
Tom Gieryic of Albany, Georgia will receive the 2018 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer.
Two deadly tornadoes in January 2017—occurring within 20 days of each other—tore off roofs and destroyed property, leaving widespread debris in the streets of Albany, Georgia. The force of the winds, with speeds ranging from 85 to 150 mph, left a vast path of downed trees.
Auto repair shop owner Tom Gieryic knew that Albany residents would attempt the dangerous task of removing massive tree trunks and other debris on their own, using chainsaws that weren’t up to the job. He devised a plan to maximize the cleanup efforts with an emphasis on safety and speed.
Tom called his business suppliers, which included NAPA Auto Parts and Snap-On-Tools. He told them about the need for industrial strength chainsaws and safety equipment. Some suppliers donated equipment. At one point, 70 volunteers worked on debris removal with Tom, and the team became known as the “Albany Chain Gang.” As local media covered the story, donations arrived, allowing Tom to buy and rent more chainsaws, safety glasses, and debris removal trucks.
To raise more funds, the team created a symbol of hope from the debris— wooden crosses of various sizes carved from tree stumps. Within days, sales totaled more than $10,000.
The Albany Chain Gang’s work continued through October 2017, when they removed debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Each year since 1963, the President has issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of National Small Business Week. This year National Small Business Week will be recognized April 29 – May 5, with events planned in Washington, D.C., Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. For more information on the national events, visit www.sba.gov/nsbw.