Texas ice storm: Austin small businesses severely impacted by major power outage

It’s a long road back for small businesses in Austin impacted by the ongoing power outages. Some of them say they’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars. 

For restaurants, the costs are really adding up: from lost revenue, to spoiled food, to employees who are now out of a week’s pay.

"It feels fantastic to be with the staff and actually to start seeing some of the regulars as well," said Chris Martinez, co-owner of Vamonos Texmex.

That’s the good news at this farm-to-table Tex-Mex spot on Airport Boulevard, which reopened Tuesday. However, the not so good news?

"We have to make up ground for a week, and that takes some time," said Martinez.

The restaurant was shut down for a whole week, with not even a ballpark on when they’d get power back, despite Martinez’s repeated calls to Austin Energy.

"Asking them each time is there an ETA. There’s no ETA," said Martinez. "Each day it was telling the staff ‘hey, we’re closed for lunch, we may be open for dinner.’"

Even after the lights came back on Saturday night, all their food had to be thrown out and replaced.

"We’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars," said Martinez.

Martinez says his biggest concern is for his devoted staff.

"It’s been very hard for them. Right now, they’re asking if they can find extra work in the meantime, because losing a week’s worth of work is a lot," said Martinez.

Meanwhile, at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on 38 ½ Street in East Austin, progress has been even slower. They only got their power back on late Tuesday.

"Basically we have to go through logistics of starting our whole business from scratch now," said general manager Benjamin Harris.

After a week, they’re left with empty freezers and close to $30,000 of food in the garbage.

"Actually we had partial power for a little bit, but then when they started fixing it, they took off all of our power, and we lost even more product," said Harris.

Harris says what little communication they got from the city, was just flat out wrong.  

"According to Austin Energy we had power the whole time because they were pinging the system and seeing that we had energy, and in fact the whole time we did not," said Harris.

Some workers were back at Cherrywood late Tuesday, making runs to buy food, and prepping to reopen Wednesday morning. Harris was doing his best to reassure them.

"Mostly we’re worried about our staff and their lost hours, because most of them live paycheck to paycheck," said Harris.

While both these businesses say the support from customers has lifted their spirits, bouncing back from yet another crisis isn’t easy.

"We had the big freeze two years ago, and we basically lost everything from that. And we’re still recuperating from that. So I would say being in the black this year is going to be very difficult," said Harris.

"Every time we think we’re over the hump, something else happens, and so it’s a little setback, but we’re not going to stop moving forward," said Martinez.

Cherrywood Coffeehouse has set up a GoFundMe page to help employees get back on their feet.