Avanti Overcomes Sandy
Cecile Corral -- Gifts & Dec, December 26, 2012
MOONACHIE, N.J. - It's no wonder Avanti Linens would take the time to tally the numbers.
The 43-year-old bath towel manufacturer and supplier was severely slammed by Hurricane Sandy, the category 2 storm that pummeled through the Northeast on Oct. 29, and spent three weeks working to recover from the destruction at its headquarters.
Here's a glimpse of how Avanti calculated the event, which it calls "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
Despite it all, Avanti managed to beat its own back-to-business schedule by seven days.
"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," noted Jeff Kaufman, president and coo. "Some thought that was optimistic, but based on the progress we made early on, certainly achievable. We beat our goal by a week. We were back processing orders on Monday, Nov. 19, thanks to the hard work and incredible dedication of the Avanti team."
On the day after Sandy struck, Arthur Tauber, chairman and ceo, and his son, Michael, president of sales, reached Avanti's offices and warehouse complex here and waded through three feet of water in the offices to assess the damage.
What they found "was beyond description," Tauber said. "Water was everywhere. Files were floating. Chairs were overturned. Files were ruined."
And that was just the office.
In the adjacent factory, the first area they encountered was shipping, "where $1 million in ready-to-ship product, which was arranged neatly on skids on the previous Friday, was a jumbled mess of collapsed boxes, soaked through and ruined. The scene was the same throughout the building. Most of the 150,000 square feet wasn't passable - boxes and wet towels were everywhere," Tauber continued.
Also, the sewing and embroidery machines' motors and circuit boards were submerged, forklifts and sealing machines were under water. Even the company car - a vintage 1963 Avanti - was flooded and destroyed.
"It was hard to see how it was going to get back to being a functioning business," said Kaufman.
The cleanup effort commenced the next day, Nov. 1. With the help of 20 employees who showed up at the office that day, part of the team began by clearing out the shipping area.
The company's mantra through it all became, "One towel, one box at a time". "We started by taking the wet - now very heavy - towels out of the wet cardboard and putting them onto pallets," explained Kaufman. "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."
By the next day, Avanti's full Moonachie-based staff - totaling 186 employees - was on board, "and the clean-up moved to full-swing mode."
The team worked through that weekend and had the building substantially cleaned up by the following Friday - "tremendous progress in 10 days," Kaufman noted.
At the same time, the company was also working to get its sewing and embroidery machines back up and running as well as its other equipment replaced or repaired.
Avanti's information system was restored by Nov. 14, and internet access was working again on Nov. 16.
As of press time, Avanti still does not have a fully functioning phone system due to external issues related to Verizon's equipment in the area.
But as Kaufman remarked, "based on where we were a month ago, we're very happy to be where we are today."
Two days after Hurricane Sandy struck, the water level had gone down three feet.
One of many fish found alive after the storm. Others were swimming in the loading dock area.
The company car, a vintage Avanti, dries off after having been under water. The trailer behind it was used as temporary office space during the cleanup.
Avanti staff worked for many consecutive days to clear out wet and damaged towels from soaked boxes.
The day after the storm — cartons of product, wet and collapsed throughout.
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