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Gainesville businesses experience ups and downs of hurricane prep

Third House Books is now expecting to reopen on Oct. 8 due to Hurricane Ian. (Elise Fore/WUFT News)
Third House Books is now expecting to reopen on Oct. 8 due to Hurricane Ian. (Elise Fore/WUFT News)

Heather Halak, the owner of Third House Books in Gainesville, was among the many Florida business owners preparing for Hurricane Ian this week.

The extremely powerful storm made landfall in Southwest Florida on Wednesday afternoon with winds nearing 150 mph. Central Florida is expected to have 12 to 18 inches of rain through Thursday.

Third House Books is a small bookstore that specializes in titles from small independent presses. The store is located at 400 NW 10th Ave next to Downtown Tabby Pet Store.

Halak was planning for the grand opening of her independent bookstore to take place on Saturday, Sept. 30. The hurricane that barreled through the state's southwest coast near Fort Myers is prohibiting her from doing so.

“I try to take this stuff as seriously as possible,” Halak said. “I know other people are going to need time to prepare, and I don’t want to encourage people to drive in the middle of a hurricane.”

The latest hurricane damage that Third House Books faced prior to being closed during the Covid-19 pandemic was in 2017. The store lost power and was forced to close during Hurricane Irma.

Third House Books will now be closed from Wednesday through Saturday. Because of the trees that line the streets of 10th Avenue, there will probably be a considerable amount of debris and potential flooding in the roads. In the meantime, Halak will be storing her books in hopes of protecting them from the heavy rainfall.

“We plan to reopen next week on Oct. 8,” Halak said. “You never know what could happen in one of these storms, so I would rather not make anyone deal with that.”

As for health and fitness businesses in Gainesville, Yoga Pod and APEX, located at 4136 NW 16th Blvd., will be closed from Wednesday afternoon to Saturday morning, according to an email that they sent out to clients.

Debbie Lee, the chief marketing officer at Gainesville Health and Fitness, said that their locations will stay open, weather permitting, unless the county guidelines advise them to close.

“The preparation is pretty much the same as a household would be,” Lee said. “We go through all of our campuses and locations and secure anything that can fly away or create a hazard.”

Lee said they do regular maintenance and tree trimming, which makes hurricane preparation a little easier.

The Gainesville Health and Fitness campuses have not experienced much damage from hurricanes in past years but have taken safety precautions by canceling all outdoor events.

Local restaurants in Gainesville are hoping to remain open during this time. The Swamp restaurant announced that it would have a “Hurricane Party” on Wednesday night but would close on Thursday. The restaurant will monitor the weather in hopes of reopening on Friday. The Social restaurant and bar at Midtown is planning on staying open at this time.

While preparing for a hurricane, people tend to stock up on alcohol. Andrew Pentland, the owner of Gator Beverage located at 1126 W University Ave, has been at the store for eight years and knows what to expect during hurricane season.

Pentland said that the store will stay open as long as they have power. They have amassed extra inventory as they plan on being very busy. Gator Beverage has been established in Gainesville for over 30 years and has dodged past hurricanes.

“We’ve been pretty lucky in Gainesville as far as hurricane damage in past years,” Pentland said. “We plan to stay open and be available to our customers.”

Elise is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.