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Coralville comes back after flood

BY MICHELLE BORYCA | JULY 20, 2009 7:15 AM

Teressa Shrock and Joseph Polina stopped into Eldorado Mexican Restaurant for a date night Sunday — a monthly destination.

“We like this place,” Polina said.

They experienced a six-month El Dorado dry spell during the 2008 flooding, however. The restaurant, 102 Second Ave., which was submerged in water last summer, reopened in February.

Statistically, one in every four businesses never recover from a major disaster, according to a study by HP and SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business. In Coralville, approximately 80 percent of businesses have reopened after last summer’s flood, Mayor Jim Fausett said.

But others will not be as fortunate; several of the smaller businesses will not make it, he said.

“You never really know, you try to work with them,” Fausett said.

Other entrepreneurs worked with what they had — sites left over from flood-vacated former tenants, for instance.

Sparti’s Gyros, 61 Second St., opened June 1 — around a year after the Coralville Strip was hit by the flood. The former location of Los Cabos was exactly what the current restaurant’s owner, Dimitri Giannakopoulos, and his partners were looking for in a location.

“If it wasn’t for the flood, Los Cabos would have still been here,” he said. “[The flood] gave us the opportunity to be able to get this location.”

Giannakopoulos said the landlords took care of the flood damage to the building, which included replacing the air-conditioning unit and electrical work. Giannakopoulos and his partners were in charge of remodeling and decorating their restaurant.

But aside from new faces, much of the Coralville Strip was in need of a makeover after waters streamed through. And just over a year later, the Strip is a rejuvenated version of its old self for the most part. The recovery wasn’t pretty, however.

“We had to remodel 100 percent,” Ramon Perez, manager of El Dorado, said through a translator.
Eldorado was forced to close during the six-month renovation process, Perez said, largely because of the restaurant’s custom decorations. The floor tiles, for example, had to be brought directly from Mexico.

The Vine Tavern and Eatery, 39 Second St., faced a similar predicament. The restaurant closed for around six weeks for repairs such as new dry wall and plumbing, said Lucas Allen, a shift manager.

In the end, he said, business was not affected much relative to past year; the number of patrons generally slow down during the summer after the mass exodus of UI students.

“It actually wasn’t terrible,” Allen said.

While the student population ebbs with class sessions, Perez said El Dorado has relied on loyal customers — such as Schrock and Polina.

Traditional Mexican music played in the background while four blue booths and two tables were occupied on Sunday night. Many customers talked over large margaritas and chips and salsa.

“We are very happy; business is getting better and better,” Perez said.


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