TULSA -- More than a week after a devastating tornado hit midtown, businesses are still trying to recover from the damage they sustained during the storm.
Fencing and caution tape still surrounds the destroyed storefronts along 41st Street at the Highland Plaza shopping center. Appearances, however, are deceiving because most of the businesses at the back of that complex have since reopened.
Rachel McGeough, the owner of Tulsa Blossom Shoppe, said her sales are down despite her suite receiving no storm damage. She said customers mistakenly think they should stay away from the destruction to other parts of the building.
"It looks like a war zone in front of the plaza," McGeough said.
"We're all family-owned businesses," she added, "and we want to let everyone know that we're here. We're open. Come see us. Come in off Hudson if you feel comfortable coming in that way, but we're here and ready to work."
Crews began Tuesday tearing down the Whataburger on 41st Street near I-44 after it took a direct hit from the tornado. Plywood also covers dozens of broken windows at Remington Tower, which has still not reopened because of questions about the building's safety after the storm.
The businesses with offices located in the tower have still not been able to go back inside. The new owner of the former Wright Career College building, located near 51st and Sheridan, is providing temporary offices for displaced businesses, like the MARS Collection Agency.
"The storm took us by storm," said Tina Wilkerson, who works for MARS. "We left work on a Friday and woke up Sunday to nothing."
She and her coworkers hope to have their temporary office up and running by Wednesday, 10 days after the storm kicked them out of their building.
"Our customers are looking for us," Wilkerson said. "We're still here. We will be calling you and contacting you and getting back on our feet."
Representatives from the Small Business Administration came back to Tulsa Tuesday to meet with other displaced business owners. They are still working to determine what help the federal government may be able to provide.
"Fortunately, we've had a lot of resilient businesses that are up and running, and it's been a testament to how wonderful our community is," Joseph Kralicek, the deputy director of Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, said. "What we're really trying to do today is reach out to those businesses that may need a helping hand up to get back on their feet so that they can continue operations as normal."
If any business owners missed meeting with representatives from the SBA, they should send an email with their contact information and the name of their business to firstname.lastname@example.org
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