Posts tagged Polehna’s

Flood photos part 2: Czech Village

Photos shot post-flood June 2008. Gazette photographer Cliff Jette and I were allowed to accompany shop owners when they first saw the devastation in Czech Village after the flood. Here is some of what we found:

Polehna's Meat Market was among the businesses hard-hit by the flood. Owner Mike Ferguson decided not to reopen the shop because of overwhelming rebuilding costs. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Polehna's Meat Market was among the businesses hard-hit by the flood. Owner Mike Ferguson decided not to reopen the shop because of overwhelming rebuilding costs. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Jan Stoffer and Gail Naughton, center, of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, make their way down 16th Avenue. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Jan Stoffer and Gail Naughton, center, of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, make their way down 16th Avenue. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette (right) shooting inside Polehna's. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette (right) shooting inside Polehna's. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Bozenka's Gif Shop, owned by Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Bozenka's Gift Shop, owned by Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena. (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gail Naughton photographs Babi Buresh Center, next to Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Gail Naughton photographs Babi Buresh Center, next to Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Floodwaters remained in front of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, days after the flood (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Floodwaters remained in front of National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, days after the flood (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Boat jammed behind cross near Joens Bros. Interiors (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Boat jammed behind cross near Joens Bros. Interiors (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette, right, talks to another photographer between Ernie's Avenue Tavern and Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Cliff Jette, right, talks to another photographer between Ernie's Avenue Tavern and Sykora Bakery (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Looking up muck-covered 16th Avenue SW, away from the Cedar River (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Looking up muck-covered 16th Avenue SW, away from the Cedar River (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Sign outside National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (photo, Cindy Hadish)

Sign outside National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (photo, Cindy Hadish)

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Czech Village ghost town

Museum staff make their way Tuesday down 16th Avenue as owners were allowed into Czech Village for the first time since last week\'s floods.    We’re diverging from our gardens a bit to address questions I’ve been hearing about Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, one of the area’s hardest hit by last week’s floods in Iowa.  I was able to go in Tuesday with the business owners and  one of our Gazette photographers, Cliff Jette, for a firsthand look at the devastation. For those of you who went to Houby Days just a few weeks ago, the area is unrecognizable from the vibrant, festive place that it was. What we saw Tuesday looked more like a ghost town, with broken windows, jumbled piles of debris and gray dirt from floodwaters covering every building and every item inside.

 

   The National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library was the same, with layers of muck on the floors and mud-covered historical artifacts. Ironically, Tuesday would have been a community meeting to discuss the museum’s expansion plans. Now the focus is on cleaning and rebuilding.

 

   Some business owners plan to clean and reopen; others are unsure. I didn’t see the Sykora’s Bakery owner on Tuesday. I know some people have inquired about that.

 

    I want to mention one concern for people who are working on cleanup. When I was interviewing the business owners as they waited to get in to Czech Village at the area’s checkpoint, I bent down to talk to one of them and put my hand on the grass. For the next hour or so, until I could wash it off, my hand felt like it was on fire. Health experts are warning about the bacteria and chemicals in the floodwaters and all of that – the gas and oil, and whatever else washed out of garages and elsewhere during the floods –  is now caked onto lawns and everything else it touched. Be careful. Wear rubber gloves when handling anything, as well as respirator masks when you’re going inside these buildings.

 

   This is the story that ran in today’s Gazette about Czech Village:

 

Business owners in Czech Village face rebuilding decisions

By Cindy Hadish

The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS  Rebuilding is the obvious answer for some business owners in the Czech Village.

    For others, answers will take time.

   Tuesday was the first day that owners were allowed to see the damage inflicted by last week’s catastrophic floods in the historic business area on 16th Avenue SW.

   “It’s quite the scene,”” said Randy Novak, president of Novak’s Heating and Air Conditioning. “It looks like a tornado hit.””

    As was the case in many stores, mud-encrusted furniture was upside down and items were jumbled into piles by the raging floodwaters.

    Novak is one of the business owners unsure about his future.

   “It’s a tough decision,”” he said. “We like it down here.””

    Rebuilding new elsewhere might be more economical, Novak added.

    The business, in the family since 1934 and in Czech Village since the early 1950s, lost furnaces, air conditioners and other inventory, plus two vehicles.

    Noting that June is typically Novaks’ busiest month and many people would need to replace furnaces that were underwater, Novak said the business is operating from a temporary shop and office.

    Nearby, Nan Barta, owner of the Saddle & Leather Shop, said she would do what she could to rebuild.

    The shop, in the family since 1946, has been a fixture in Czech Village since 1908. A 100-year anniversary celebration was planned for later this year.

     “It’s difficult at best,” Barta, 53, said of the devastation. “This has been my whole life. It has been my parents’ whole life. I loved it.””

    Cookie Vanous, 63, owner of Czech Feather & Down Co., echoed Barta’s sentiments. The business was started by her ancestors in 1875 and has been in Czech Village for 20 years.

   With the help of family, friends and Home Depot, which sent boxes and other materials, Vanous was able to remove nearly everything before the flood, including customers’ orders.

   “I want to save the building because of the history in it,”” she said. “We’ll stay here. It’s our heritage.””

    Engineers will have to determine the structural soundness of the buildings, some of which had flooding near rooflines.

    Al Zindrick, 53, owner of Al’s Red Frog and Zindrick’s Czech Restaurant, hopes to reopen.

    “I really plan on it,”” he said. “I want to be one of the ones to say, `This is not going to get me down.”

    Zindrick lives above the restaurant and was able to get his 92-year-old mother out before the floods came. Their cat was left behind with extra food and water.

   Czech Cottage owner Bob Schaffer left behind his parents’ pets in their apartment above the store. His mother, Jitka, 80, had lived through the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II.

  “I hope I’ll find three live cats,”” said Schaffer, 53, as he entered the store, a former pharmacy that has been in business for 33 years selling jewelry — which was removed before the flood — and Czech glass and other gift items. The building was built in 1901.

   Schaffer plans to reopen, but Mike Ferguson, 47, owner of the landmark Polehna’s Meat Market, was unsure.

   His priority Tuesday was finding a hazardous material crew to help remove thousands of pounds of rotting meat in the building.

   “There’s a lot of people worse off from me,” Ferguson said, his voice breaking. “But I lost my future.””

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Homegrown flood perspective

A boat makes its way down a flooded street near downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 12, 2008.    How do you describe the devastation to someone not experiencing these floods?

   Journalists typically pursue the Big Story with an excited fervor, but when it happens in your hometown – to your hometown – the news feels like a crushing blow to the stomach.

   There was the Time Check neighborhood completely under water, where my son played soccer this spring. Where I had interviewed Doug Ward this week for a story about his Ellis A&W restaurant’s anniversary – the oldest drive-in in Cedar Rapids. Where we had done what little we could to help co-worker Kathy Alter evacuate from her home with her mother. I still have her knitting – dozens of items she created for charity – in the trunk of my car. Kathy said it’s practically all that’s left from her home.

   There was the Cedar Rapids Public Library, where my children regularly begged me to take them – yes, for computer games, but also for the summer reading program, research for school projects and DVDs to check out, all perhaps taken too much for granted. The first thing my younger son asked was if the Harry Potter books had survived. Could anything survive that surge of water from the Cedar River?

   There was the stately St. Wenceslaus Church, where members tried to save historic artifacts by moving them up from the basement. I had intended to take pictures of my son serving Mass at the 104-year-old church, sometime soon. It was under the flood of water, as well.

   There was Czech Village, with its landmark National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library; Polehna’s meat market with its distinctive savory scent, historic Sykora’s, the bakery everyone had been waiting on to re-open; and the restaurants and bars that have been longtime neighborhood hang-outs. All under the swell of water. There was 20-plus year Czech School teacher Bessie Dugena’s t-shirt and souvenir shop, which my sons and I had sandbagged – a futile effort, it turned out – and her house just a block away.

   And then there was the home where my mother, Dorothy Martens, still lived on Hamilton Street, just blocks from Czech Village and until Thursday, seemingly nowhere near the river. The sidewalks where we rode our bikes as kids under a canopy of trees and the wide porches where neighbors would chat on warm summer evenings, all became part of the Cedar River this week. I’m in northeast Cedar Rapids. Mom’s across the river, so I can’t easily reach her to give her a hug.  

   I did talk to her today. Like other Iowans who have lost their homes, she’s had her low moments, but calls from relatives and friends, including a cousin in California, have buoyed her spirits. As usual, her first thoughts are with others. “I keep thinking of all the rest of Cedar Rapids,” she said. “It’s a house and we had some good years in it.” Somehow we’ll carry on.

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