Earlier this week, I met with Michael Pollack, co-founder and managing partner of the Brooklyn Roasting Company, a coffee shop and roasting facility located in DUMBO with locations across New York City. BRC was able to receive free devices for all their employees during Phase 1 of the RISE:NYC program. To read more about RISE:NYC, check out my last In The Mesh article – Meshing NYC Small Businesses. As we enter Phase 2, where we will be distributing 6,000 more devices to NYC small businesses, we decided to revisit Michael to learn more about his Sandy experience and how goTenna fits into his emergency preparedness planning. Here’s what he shared with me:
On Superstorm Sandy
Michael Pollack: For us, it’s important to think about Superstorm Sandy in the context of Hurricane Irene, which came a year prior. Irene gave us a taste of what Sandy might look like.
If we spent more time understanding the trifecta of the moon, waves, and tide we may have been more prepared. But, we were busy running a coffee shop! We took out as much from the basement as we could. We attached sheets of wood to the windows, which we hadn’t done before. Then we went about our business, not knowing what would happen. There’s a parking garage across the street that saved us. They have 3 underground levels that got 4 million gallons of water. If it weren’t for them, we would have been out of business. It’s amazing that we didn’t lose power. My business partner, Jim Munson, literally took bags of unroasted coffee to keep the water out. That’s the Brooklyn decaffeination process!* But water is unstoppable.
* After a Google search I discovered this is an allusion to the Swiss Water Method, which solely uses water and osmosis to decaffeinate beans.
On community involvement
MP: We partnered with Biolite, an outdoor & offgrid energy business up the hill from us and we gave away coffee to people in the neighborhood while they charged their cell phones. We ended up donating thousands of gallons of coffee and hundreds of pounds of beans to those helping over in Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey. We had a very successful Halloween party that year. The community really came together.
MP: Although the shop was fine, I dealt with a loss of power at home. I live in Downtown Manhattan and I was biking to work everyday. When I biked home at night, there were lights on the bridge, but once I entered Manhattan it was entirely dark and very eery. Then of course Halloween came soon after which only added to the creepiness. Most of our employees travel by bicycle as well. Bicycles saved us!
On Sandy’s lasting impact
MP: We’re seeing the impact of Sandy now as well. The L is being closed and repaired soon because of the damage from Sandy. It’s affecting Williamsburg, businesses along the L are going to have to reimagine traveling and continuing with their business.
On big ideas and the future
MP: During Sandy, access to communication was totally random. You never knew if you were going to get in touch with people. The science didn’t exist, but the creativity did. What goTenna is doing is great. You guys have a huge concept and a tiny device. It’s about being able to communicate. Placing these devices in the hands of our people is so appealing, that’s why we are excited to participate in the RISE program. Even though the device is small, it grants us the power of the network. It allows us to literally carry the network on our backs. That’s a civics lesson!
We are encouraging anyone that owns or works for a small business that was impacted by Sandy to apply for the RISE:NYC program here.
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