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With No Power, Waterfront Bike Shop Repairs By Candlelight

By Heather Holland | November 16, 2012 5:08pm

COLUMBIA WATERFRONT DISTRICT — The mechanics at Dog Day Cyclery have been repairing bikes by candlelight as they went on their 18th day without power or heat on Thursday.

When Hurricane Sandy reached the Brooklyn waterfront on Oct. 30, Dog Day Cyclery, a bike repair shop at 115 Van Brunt St., lost power and heat, but the owner says he’s fortunate that all of his bikes and equipment were intact.

“It’s really hard to feel sorry for ourselves, when we see all the devastation that’s happened in Red Hook, and just down Van Brunt Street,” said Damien Nesbit, the 36-year-old owner of Dog Day.

The loss of power still has taken a toll on the shop’s employees. One mechanic, 38-year-old Kyle Wiswall, said the shop goes through at least 14 candles a day, and he was wearing five layers of clothes, long underwear and winter socks to keep warm on Thursday afternoon.

“It gets cold in here, with no heat and using metal tools all day,” said Wiswall. “I’ve been exhausted by the end of the day. It takes all my energy just to keep a core temperature.”

With no power and heat, the shop makes due by getting creative. On Thursday afternoon, the sun was still out, illuminating the storefront; but in the back, where bikes are repaired, the space is mostly shadowed.

“It gets very dark here at night,” said Wiswal. “We work like farmers now. We’re up with the sun and down with the sun.”

The owner said he had no idea when the power would be restored, but employees started a betting pool to see who can guess the exact day. In the pot, was a modest pile of 20 one-dollar bills.

So far, the loss of power hasn’t affected business much, Nesbit said, though he noted that the shop loses at least one big sale a day because the credit card machine remains unusable.

The shop — which has been open for about 15 months and gets much of its clientele from Red Hook — saw a spike in business during the hurricane, the owner said. Most of the business came from customers whose bikes were either trapped in a flooded basement and needed repairing, or from people who hadn’t used their bikes in awhile but needed to ready it for use while the subways were down.

“Red Hook is underserved as far as transportation,” said Nesbit. “There are a lot of people in Red Hook who rely heavily on their bikes. To some of them, bikes are their main way of transportation and getting access to amenities.”

Until power is restored, business hours are amended from a six-day to a five-day week, and open from 10 until sundown.

Being so close to the waterfront, Nesbit worries that flooding could easily happen in the future. To be better prepared, Nesbit will be moving some of his more valuable bike inventory into an indoor storage facility. The bikes are currently housed in an outdoor shed, adjacent to the shop.

He is also making plans to purchase a generator in case the power goes out again.

“If the store had been flooded, I don’t know that we could’ve bounced back from that,” said Nesbit. “We’re very much a family business, going month to month.