Pool chemical manufacturer Alden Leeds sustained heavy damage to its facility during Hurricane Sandy, but unlike many businesses nearby, it managed to survive.
“There were a number of miracles that occurred, things that you would not expect,” recalled Larry Epstein, who owns the firm along with his three brothers, Andy, Mark and Steven. “Considering everything, it could have been worse. There are many people in the New York/New Jersey area who are out of business.”
Alden Leeds was founded in 1959 by their father, Edward Epstein, and began manufacturing in Kearny, N.J., in 1974. The company also has a facility in Enid, Okla.
Today two buildings -- a 20,000-square-foot plant and a 135,000-square-foot warehouse, shipping/ receiving area -- operate out of Kearny.
During the storm, approximately 3 feet of brackish water flooded both one-story buildings, but somehow spared the company’s offices. This enabled the firm to continue operations at satellite locations and ship all products needed without any disruption, Epstein said.
Though submerged under 7 feet of water, Alden Leeds’ fleet of trucks even started without any problems and, after getting oil changes, ran normally.
Several machines related to manufacturing were unharmed despite the flooding, and some inventory that got wet was salvageable as well.
“By nature, pool chemicals are in waterproof packaging, so there wasn’t the reaction you would expect from a packaged pool chemical going under water,” Epstein explained.
Unfortunately, the company’s electrical system didn’t fare as well and it’s expected to cost $750,000 to replace nine main transformers and up to 50 motors that run the facility’s machinery. Additionally, the flooding necessitated cleanup and reorganization.
“When you are in this business, you plan for the worst possible scenarios, and flooding is not usually one of them,” he said.
A fire also broke out, most likely caused by an electrical source, but by the time the fire department arrived, the blaze had been suppressed by the building’s sprinkler system. However, the fire is estimated to have caused $3.5 million in damage, which is covered by insurance, said Epstein.
“We have been through low points and high points, so it’s another low point we weren’t looking forward to dealing with, but we are stoic about these things and we like to pick up and get going again,” Epstein said. “We have machines ready to go now and if anyone needs anything, we can ship it immediately. Productive capacity is back,” he said.
However, some industry members heard that the company was not functioning, a rumor that Alden Leeds officials quickly dispelled.
“Some of our customers came to us at the show asking, ‘What’s happening? We heard you can’t ship.’ It’s easy to imagine that unscrupulous salespeople would say we are out of business, but our customers know we are fine,” he said. “We are one of the few in the country that has two factories, so at no time was our production affected [in a major way].”