SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — With just enough time left to capitalize on the holiday shopping season, Pier 17 reopened Thursday, more than a month after Hurricane Sandy forced the popular tourist location to shut down.
Though the mall at the pier was left seemingly unscathed by the storm, the pier and all its shops had remained closed for weeks — much to the chagrin of the dozens of local store and restaurant owners.
Just last week, pier owner Howard Hughes Corporation said in a statement that it was working as quickly as possible to reopen, but gave no timetable as to when that would happen, leaving business owners frustrated.
Many owners feared they'd lose out on crucial holiday shoppers and that the pier would remain closed for months. Tenants are being forced to vacate this summer, as the Seaport undergoes a massive redevelopment plan.
After much speculation about when the shops would open, Seaport Management sent out an email Thursday morning to owners, letting them know that Pier 17 and the Pier 17 Mall would re-open for business starting at 10 a.m. thanks to a successful completion of an inspection. The neighboring Link Building remains closed pending repairs.
According to the announcement sent to owners, the Seaport shops will be open from 10 a.m.. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Management is also encouraging retailers to offer 10-percent sale on select items through Dec. 31.
But early this afternoon, many shops and kiosks in the mall remained dark as tourists slowly trickled in, some saying they just walked in to get warm.
Carole St. Onge, owner of the kiosk Seaport Hats, said she was thrilled to be open but that it's been a very tough five weeks.
"We didn't know when or if we'd be open," said St. Onge, who's run the kiosk for more than 15 years. "It still feel very desolate in here, and we need more attention, letting people know we are open."
St. Onge and other business owners feared that with much of the rest of the Seaport still shut down, the few weeks before the holidays won't be nearly as bustling as years past — a tough reality when owners have already lost thousands due to the extended closure.
Sam Himami, owner of the mall's Pacific Grill, as well as other Seaport eateries that remain closed, said many of his employees left for other jobs after Sandy. Pacific Grill had 30 waiters, but they opened today with just 10, he explained.
"We've lost hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Himami, 57. "But we're glad things are starting to open up."
The Howard Hughes Corporation did not immediately return calls for comment.