Jo's Modern Thai, a small business on MacArthur Boulevard. January 5, 2023 Credit: Nico Savidge

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The ongoing storm pummeling the East Bay has damaged some homes, flooded and blocked roads, and caused numerous power outages. It has also affected local businesses. 

We checked in with business owners and advocates in East Oakland to see how their operations have been affected by the heavy downpour, which is expected to continue into next week.

Mayra Chavez, whose family owns Huarache Azteca, a restaurant serving Mexico City-style cuisine on International Boulevard in Fruitvale, said the shop experienced some damage from last night’s heavy rainfall and wind.

“We have a patio on the side of our restaurant for outdoor dining and our entire canopy came off and we now have to replace it,” Chavez said. “It’s a cost we didn’t account for and one we can’t afford at this time.” 

Huarache Azteca will maintain its current hours, which are Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. “We asked our staff that lives far to not come in because of the storm and we had to quickly ask other staff to cover in order to insure we could serve our customers,” said Chavez. However, the heavy rain and winds have led to a significant decline in patronage. 

The Unity Council, a nonprofit organization located in Fruitvale that serves the largely Spanish-speaking business owners in East Oakland, provided a statement to The Oaklandside about what kind of assistance they’re providing. “We are currently serving as a hub for emergency response info and repost through our communication channels,” said Tiffany Lacsado, The Unity Council’s director of economic development. “We are also going out into the field to check in on businesses and help them with filing damage reports, insurance claims, facade improvement applications, etc.” 

Kao Saelee, the owner of Jo’s Modern Thai on MacArthur Boulevard in the Laurel District, said their restaurant experienced flooding on December 31 due to a clogged stormwater drain. “Luckily our business did not sustain any damage aside from the loss of revenue from that day as we were fully booked and estimated to have about $9K in sales,” Saelee said. “We reported the storm drainage to the city of Oakland and they came out to fix the issue but unfortunately it was too late for us to open up for service.” 

Jo’s Modern Thai experienced minor leaks last night though the restaurant is currently open for regular dining hours, Tuesday to Sunday from 5-9 p.m. “Business is slow as expected. A lot of cancellations due to the storm,” said Saelee. 

Don Johnson, co-owner of Mischief Oakland, a boutique gift store also located on MacArthur in the Laurel District, told The Oaklandside that they would be closed this week to wait out the storm. Johnson said the store experienced minor flooding last week but no significant impacts. Johnson placed sandbags outside Mischief to reduce the chances of potential water damage. “We had to close this week to limit commutes and keep everyone safe,” Johnson said. “Hoping for the best.” 

Daniel Swafford, executive director of both the Laurel and Montclair business improvement districts, told The Oaklandside that both commercial corridors have experienced flooding or debris obstruction due to the storm. Swafford has remained in contact with the city’s maintenance teams to ensure these issues are dealt with swiftly.

 “Speaking for the districts, I work with our maintenance teams to make sure Oakland street drains are clear of leaves and debris that would cause backup, or water to flow into the roadway, making unsafe conditions,” Swafford said. 

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.