DOWNTOWN — After 11 feet of floodwater filled The Salty Paw, a doggie boutique and grooming spa in the South Street Seaport, the only thing left standing when the water subsided was a painting hanging on the wall.
The oil portrait is of owner Amanda Byron Zink’s beloved late dog, a Great Dane named Tyras who inspired her to open the shop and whose silhouette adorns the sign outside.
“Everything was floating out in front of my store — poop bags, treats, you name it,” Zink said as she recalled the devastation at her Peck Slip shop the day after Hurricane Sandy. “But this one painting of my dog was still standing. It was the only painting still hanging on the wall. That, to me, is a sign. That gave me that push to keep going forward.”
Two weeks after the storm, which severely flooded much of the lower Manhattan waterfront, The Salty Paw reopened in a temporary space at the Seaport Animal Hospital a few blocks away, while Zink's original location undergoes four to six months of repairs.
"We're not leaving the neighborhood," she declared.
On Tuesday, The Salty Paw took in its first clients since Sandy struck: A groomer clipped a Chihuahua named Brownie's nails, and an American Bulldog named Hammie — a regular — came in for his weekly bath.
Zink is taking only a few appointments per day, limited by space and the loss of equipment from the storm. While the shop previously groomed 10 to 20 dogs a day and provided daycare for another 10 to 15, on Tuesday workers booked just three pups for baths.
“I can only operate on maybe a 30-percent level, but it’s something. It’s a start,” Zink said, noting she's looking to find a larger space in the neighborhood to work from while waiting for the original Peck Slip shop to become habitable again.
The Salty Paw lost close to $60,000 of merchandise during the storm, including nearly $10,000 of dog and cat food alone, plus high-end pet beds and other items, like a $150 custom-made rhinestone dog collar, Zink said.
Though Zink tried to prepare for the flooding by hanging most of the store's inventory from pipes on the ceiling, much of it was still damaged by water.
"I was able to salvage five satin dog coats," Zink said.
The silver lining, she added, is that since the storm, the store has been inundated with donations of pet food and merchandise from other shops and distributors who heard about The Salty Paw's plight.
"Everybody just wants to help," Zink said.
On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg toured the Seaport, stopping at the shop and several other devastated stores and restaurants to survey the damage.
But Zink said the biggest show of support has come from The Salty Paw's clients. When she and her colleagues checked the shop's voicemail on Monday for the first time since the storm, it was filled with messages from customers who were eager to book appointments for their furry friends.
"Our clients are so committed to us, they'd come to us wherever we are — they'd come to us on a raft," Zink said. "I feel very confident that we'll bounce back."