Oceanside, NY—After two weeks without power and losing five of 30 employees to displacement after the storm, Howard Chasser, owner of Jandi’s Natural Market, had no problem rolling up his sleeves and jumping on the register to ring-up and listen to his customers’ horror stories.

“Everybody has a story, and you don’t have to look too far to the right or left to hear about someone who has one worse,” said Chasser. “It’s just challenging, emotionally.”

Jandi’s sustained minimal physical damage: power loss and some blown-away fencing. The same cannot be said for buildings and homes just two blocks away, including other stores that sustained water damage and won’t be open for months. Chasser knows how lucky he is, but as a storeowner, he also knows the impact the storm will continue to hurt long after the fence has been rebuilt.

“I’m having a little bit of survivor’s guilt,” Chasser laughed. “It’s a very baffling back and forth; I only lost $30k of merchandise, and oh my God, I lost $30k of merchandise.”

This loss mostly encompassed perishable items and produce, but not the total loss that isn’t close to being quantifiable until it's seen how the lasting affects of Sandy will change the community and Jandi’s displaced customer base. But Chasser wasn’t going to worry about the future when presently, people need his help. Anticipating the worst early on, Chasser gathered up produce and groceries and went to some of the worst affected areas and handed them out to families in need instead of letting everything go to waste in his dark, closed store.

Even after the lights came on two weeks later, Chasser continued donating produce to the community. About 40% of his market comes from some of the most hard-hit areas, he says.

Chasser even offered to help find housing for those who lost everything. He asked his clients to alert him if anyone had housing available for rent, so he could connect them with those in need.

Despite customers losing their homes and automobiles, many expressed how worried they had been for the store, and how happy they were to see everything back up and running.

“One woman called the day we opened and said, ‘Jandi’s is open! You just made my day! This is going to be a great day,’” said Chasser. “It’s very heartwarming to feel that we make that level of difference for people.”


Back to Main Story: Profiles in Perseverance

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2013 (online 11/26/12)