BACK AGAIN: John Bellone, co-owner of the shuttered Maria’s Seaside Café in Westerly’s Misquamicut village, saw the business destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. He said he’s working with the town on plans to build “something new.”
Misquamicut businesses certainly would not have chosen to be flooded, wiped out or generally whipped by the remnants of Superstorm Sandy – but more than a year after the storm did its damage, the concept of “we’re better than before” is echoing among many of the owners of hotels, motels and restaurants in the seaside village in Westerly.
For some, though, better is still in future tense, as in, “We’re planning to build something new that will be better than before,” while for others, the property is improved, but the insurance problems are worse than ever.
Plans for the Bellone family business in Misquamicut are still taking shape. Its now-shuttered Maria’s Seaside Café was destroyed in the storm, although the five suites on the second floor above the restaurant survived.
“We’re working with architects, engineers and the town on plans to build something new,” said John Bellone, who owns the business with his parents, Nicola and Maria Bellone.
Maria’s Seaside Café was the only Misquamicut business, out of about 40, that didn’t open for the 2013 tourist season in some form, even though the majority of those businesses suffered some level of storm damage.
“We got wiped out by a wave. We had flood insurance on the building and got paid, but we’re not in a hurry. The insurance is just a fraction of what we’ll need to rebuild,” said Bellone. “It’s unfortunate that the hurricane came along, but here’s an opportunity to do something better. We’re planning on making a significant investment in Misquamicut.”
Plans and permits need to be finalized for what Bellone foresees as more of a hotel than the five previous suites, and a smaller restaurant than the former 150-seat configuration. Bellone said the new building “will be in keeping with the shingle style of the beach community.
“We always took pride in our property, and what we are planning will be a benefit and an attraction for the village of Misquamicut,” he said.
The family also owns a property just a few blocks away, the Breezeway Resort Hotel, which wasn’t damaged in the storm, and that’s been a source of income and office space while the plans for the new project evolve.
One Misquamicut business damaged in the storm that’s mostly restored and was opened in time for the 2013 season is the 10-room Sea Shell Motel, called “the pink place” by owner Deborah Stebenne.