As flooding persists, Hartford North End hardware store to end operations after more than a century
This July Fourth included celebration but also rain and lots of it. In Hartford’s North End it brought more flooding that residents say has been an unaddressed problem for years.
Star Hardware store, located on Main Street, announced they'd closed part of their operation rather than repair the flood damage and purchase more inventory, according to owner Max Kothari.
He said the store was flooded with about five inches of sitting water, which he and his sons spent the holiday removing.
“Financially my family and I will be OK, but the truth of the story is that I could go on and on, about the amount of impact,” Kothari said. “People who need help will not get help in a timely fashion.”
The store, which has been around for more than 100 years and owned by Kothari since 1989, previously conducted day-to-day hardware needs such as mixing paint and cutting keys. But following the July Fourth flooding, Kothari decided to limit the store’s operations to bulk services such as appliance sales.
“There are lots of houses now that will have mold issues, because of a lack of leadership on the part of a lot of decision makers in Hartford,” Kothari said. “How can you accept this 80-year-old woman was out on the street flagging the fire department to please help her? And what's going to happen is she doesn't have the resources to clean her basement and she's going to let it dry on its own, not realizing the mold is going to grow in our houses.”
The flooding came roughly one week after the state outlined $85 million plans to reconfigure the North End’s sewage infrastructure and a new program funded by $5 million to compensate residents with flood damage.
The $5 million, however, cannot be allocated until an administrator is selected by the governor to oversee the distribution process, State Comptroller Sean Scanlon said.
“People are frustrated, and they need help, and this program is going to help them and help is coming. But, it's going to take a little bit of time,” Scanlon said. “I do recognize that people need that help today, but we want to get this right.”
Hartford’s state delegation has until July 24 to provide two recommendations to Gov. Ned Lamont for the program’s administrator. Lamont has until Aug. 1 to fill the role.
“Then throughout the course of August, myself and my office will sit down with that person and come up with the program, which I then ultimately need to sign off and approve,” Scanlon said. “I'm trying to do that as quickly as possible, but it's hard to definitively say when that program will be actually able for somebody to apply for.”
A spokesperson for Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin encourages people to report damages to the city and says they will track and share that info with the state when the newly-created program comes online.
For North End neighborhood resident Sharon Lewis, the program is more than seven months too late.
Lewis, who is also the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, hasn’t been able to live in her home since it was flooded in December. During the July Fourth storm, her house suffered another flood.
“My neighbor texted me and said, ‘I think you should come home because your front lawn is like a swimming pool.’ So, you know, we braved the downpour and got home and went to the back, because that's where we go to the basement and the basement hatchway stairs had crumbled,” Lewis said.
The issue extends beyond her home, however, with other residents unsure where to turn for help pumping their basements and ensuring the space is safe.
“Those people whose basements were flooded, don't think for one minute that the basements are really bone dry. Don't think for one minute that bacteria [hasn't] already started to grow. But they're home, they're staying there,” Lewis said. “Some people have no place to go, because a lot of people live near their relatives, they live near their friends.”