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Some Gaylord Businesses Affected by May Tornado Prepare to Re-open

Gaylord Goodwill
Gaylord Goodwill Inside
Gaylord Goodwill 1
Gaylord Goodwill 4

It’s been just over two months since the deadly and devastating tornado tore through Gaylord in Otsego County. Cleanup efforts continue at homes and businesses throughout the community following the May 20 storm.

Everyone in Gaylord has a different story to tell about May 20. Workers at the Goodwill store were among those who had no job to go back to. Director of Donated Goods Josh Olds says, “It was very sudden, and we had to find a new space very quickly.”

Gaylord Store Manager Kevin Arnold was working when the tornado hit. He says, “It was a shocking day.” And store employee Danyell Hamblin says she had just gotten home that afternoon – and called friends and co-workers to see what had happened. “It was very scary when we found out work was hit.” And she says being out of work was an uneasy feeling. “It was scary at first but our company is amazing. They paid us all the way through.”

Fortunately, none of them were injured. But the store itself suffered heavy damage. Olds says, “A lot of the merchandise was ruined by debris and the wind.” While their store is still just a shell – waiting for tear down and rebuilding – there is some significant progress in just the last couple of weeks. Goodwill is able to open a temporary location. “We were happy to see as soon as we opened up this morning, we’ve got folks coming in, and dropping things off. It’s already coming in and we’re getting it out to the floor,” Olds says. “We’re starting to process through more donated items to get the sales floor filled as quickly as possible. So the team really pulled it together and got it done.”

Olds says opening a store normally takes several months. But this popup location has come together in just two weeks. Olds credits the employees. “They’ve been really great and pulled together. As soon as we had a plan and a space to get back to, they were really eager to get back in and get busy.” It’s been good news for Arnold and his team. “We’ve been cold turkey for about six weeks with nothing to do. So we’re excited to be back in.”

The Gaylord community has been taking things one step at a time for the last two months. At the Goodwill store, Olds says your donations help the community, and your purchases are helping many of the Goodwill programs. That includes the Patriot Place shelter for veterans, and vouchers for community members in need. “The store generates revenue which funds programs in the community. We also provide vouchers in the community that folks who are in need of things can come into the store and purchase things on those vouchers.”

County Emergency Management Director Jon Deming says he’s pleased with the overall progress in town. “If you notice through your travels through Gaylord, Gaylord’s coming back.”

Other stores that were shuttered by the tornado are also starting to reopen. A grocery store is back open, and a salon will reopen Saturday.  Others, Deming says, will take much longer to repair. “Some of these are slow progress, but we are showing progress,” he says. “But it is a slow process with insurance companies. Some move faster than others.”

From supply chain issues to waiting on insurance companies and contractor schedules, Deming says it could be a while. “We’ll probably be a year yet until the community starts to look back. But businesses are shaping up. The SBA has been here (and will be into next week) getting low-interest loans.”

In the meantime, there are silver linings in the dark clouds. Olds says, “We’re extremely happy to be open and seeing a lot of smiling faces and a lot of support from the community coming back in.” Hamblin adds, “We were a team. And still are a team. And we stuck together. It just brought us closer together throughout it all.” The Goodwill store hopes to rebuild in their former location, hopefully in 2023.

Deming says, “The Community Foundation and the United Way and the churches have done marvelous work trying to fill the gaps so nobody falls into a hole and can’t get out.”