Bay Ridge merchant makes life easier for hurricane homeowners

December 27, 2012 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A casual stroll up Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge changed Walter T. Connolly’s life. 

Connolly, a retired telephone technician whose Breezy Point home suffered massive damage in Hurricane Sandy, said he and his wife have been staying with his sister-in-law in Bay Ridge since the super-storm. He walked into Joe’s Appliances, at 7812 Fifth Ave., one recent afternoon and chatted with the store’s owner, Arline Lewis. By the end of that conversation, Connolly had a brand new kitchen, free-of-charge, thanks to Lewis’s generosity.

Lewis decided to donate kitchen appliances to Connolly on the spot. Connolly and his wife will get a stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and a microwave once they rebuild their house and are ready to move back in. Connolly estimated that they will be ready in about a year.

“Arline said, ‘I’m giving you a kitchen.’ I said, ‘For free?’ And she said, ‘Yes!’” Connolly recalled.

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Lewis had already decided to donate a kitchen when Connolly walked into the store. “I wanted to help a Breezy Point resident and he was the first person from Breezy to walk in,” she said.

The Connolly’s aren’t the only people Lewis is helping. She also donated kitchen appliances to be the grand prize in a raffle at a Hurricane Sandy benefit concert that took place at the Salty Dog bar on Third Avenue last month.

The raffle was won by Breezy Point resident Jennifer Pappanicholaou. “I’m still crying like a baby over it,” said Pappanicholaou, a nurse at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “I lost everything. My house came off the foundation in the storm surge. This kitchen will really help me rebuild my life,” she said.

Lewis, who has been in business on Fifth Avenue for over 40 years, said she decided to donate kitchen appliances because she is concerned about Breezy Point residents. The community suffered devastation in the Oct. 29 super-storm. “A lot of my customers are either from Breezy or have summer homes in Breezy,” she said.

There was also another reason, she said. “I can’t donate my time to the victims, because I don’t have the time. But I can donate a refrigerator, which I do have,” she said.

Lewis purchased Joe’s Appliances from the original owner, whose name was Joe. “I decided to keep the name the same,” she said, seated at a desk in her store. Her desk faces a line of ovens. Lined up against another wall are refrigerators. Joe’s Appliances sells dishwashers, televisions, air conditioners, coffee makers, washing machines, blenders, Cuisinarts, heaters, irons, and many other household appliances.

Lewis announced her intention of donating kitchen appliances at a meeting of a group of appliance store owners that took place in a warehouse. “When I announced that I was going to give to a Breezy Point recipient, Frigidaire was so impressed, they decided to donate a kitchen, too!” she said.

Pappanicholaou, who is staying with friends in Bay Ridge, was at the benefit concert at the Salty Dog when her name was announced as the winner of the raffle. I’m so grateful. I just can’t believe it!” she said.

“I need to replace everything. But knowing I’ll have a kitchen is a major headache out of the way,” Pappanicholaou said.

Like Pappanicholaou, Connolly can’t believe his good luck. “I was walking by here and I thought, ‘I wonder if they sell ductless air systems. I had that in my house and I like it. I came in and started talking to Arline and before you know it, I had a new kitchen! I was overwhelmed by her generosity and when I went home and told my wife, she was flabbergasted,” Connolly said.

Connolly carries Lewis’s business cards in his pocket and hands them out to people. “He gives my cards out to everyone,” Lewis said. “I want people to know what a generous person she is,” he said.


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