Avanti Linens: Back from the Flood
| Jeff Kaufman, president/coo, Avanti Linens, presents a gripping account of how
Avanti weathered and survived hurricane Sandy:
The epicenter of destruction in Northern New Jersey from "Superstorm Sandy,"
which hit the East Coast at the end of October 2012, was the Moonachie area, home
to Avanti Linens for the past 26 years. An 11-foot wall of water was pushed up the
Hackensack River and over its banks, engulfing the town of Moonachie and the
surrounding area with more than 5 feet of water. Avantis office and factory were
flooded with 3 feet of water.
Arthur and Michael Tauber reached the building on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 after
the storm ended and waded through the water to assess the damage. When they
arrived at the site, the water was 3 feet high against the building. What they found
when they entered the building was beyond description. Water was everywhere. Files
were floating and ruined. Chairs were overturned.
And then they made it out to the factory. The first area they encountered was
shipping, where $1M in ready-to-ship product, which was arranged neatly on skids
the previous Friday, was a jumbled mess of collapsed boxes, soaked through and
The scene was the same throughout the building. Most of the 150,000 square
feet wasn't passableboxes and wet towels were everywhere. The sewing and
embroidery machines' motors and circuit boards were submerged. Forklifts and
sealing machines were under water. And the company car, a 1963 Avanti, was also
flooded and destroyed. It was hard to see how it was going to get back to being a
Day one of the cleanup was Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2012. We managed to get about
20 of our employees in and started working on getting our shipping area cleared
out. We started by taking the wet (now very heavy towels) out of the wet cardboard
and putting them onto pallets. Our mantra was "one towel, one box at a time."
Before the end of the first day, we had made substantial progress in getting this
one small area cleaned up and, if nothing else, showed that with a lot of hard work,
we were going to be OK.
We had a restoration company begin work on our offices, which we had just
finished renovating in December of last year after being flooded by hurricane Irene.
After Irene, we only needed 2 feet of sheetrock ripped out, the carpet replaced and
the office re-painted. Sandy was a much different story. Four feet of sheetrock, and
all of the electrical wiring and data lines had to be replaced. And every chair, desk
and file cabinet was gone, along with every piece of paper and file in them.
Our full staff returned on Thursday, Nov. 2, and the clean-up moved to full-swing
mode. We had 186 employees working hard to get the mess cleaned up. We worked
through the weekend and had the building substantially cleaned up by the following
Friday; tremendous progress in 10 days.
At the same time, we were working on getting our sewing and embroidery
machines back up and running, and getting the other equipment replaced or
repaired. Our information system was restored on Nov. 14 and internet access was
back on Nov. 16.
We still don't have a fully functioning phone system due to the massive
destruction of the Verizon equipment in the area, but based on where we were a
month ago, we're very happy to be where we are today.
We set a goal of being back in business and shipping again by Nov. 26, which was
four weeks from the day that Sandy struck and 26 days from the start of the clean-
up. Some thought that was optimistic, but based on the progress we made early on,
We beat our goal by a weekwe were back processing orders on Monday, Nov.
19, thanks to the hard work and incredible dedication of the Avanti team.
The flood by the numbers:
-2.4 million gallons of water in the building
-29,000 man-hours for clean-up and restoration
-1,050 pallets of wet towels moved out
-700,000 towels destroyed
-12,000 square feet of sheetrock replaced
-4 miles of data and electrical wiring replaced
-22 30-yard containers of trash removed
-30 tons of wet cardboard recycled
(Photo of water-soaked, post-hurricane warehouse by Arthur Tauber.)