For small businesses in Grand Isle, LA, it’s hard to imagine any good coming from the 4 million barrels of crude oil washing onto the local beach. Locals see the oil spill as a disaster that will cause some businesses to go bankrupt and tarnish the area’s reputation for years.
But in every disaster there’s a silver lining, even if it’s just learning how to survive. All Americans can learn from these seven disaster survival stories:
1. Grand Isle realtor Carolyn Angelette saw a “horrific, just horrible” drop-off in sales after the oil spill. After a few weeks, however, she found a new market in renting scores of rooms to the contractors hired to clean the oil. Be opportunistic.
2. Frank Besson sold less than $40 in one week at his gift & tackle shop back in May in Grand Isle. His solution? “We're going to stay open and try to do what we can. Still owe a lot of money, so we'll see if we can sell some trinkets.” Don’t give up.
3. To support local businesses, Rebecca Wilson and other Alabama tourism reps began filming daily videos from the Orange Beach shores. The videos let people know when the beaches were clean and gave a human face for when oil was a problem. Don’t hide: get out and control your publicity.
4. Local councilman Chris Roberts was forced to cancel the annual Tarpon Rodeo, Grand Isle’s biggest source of tourism and revenue. Rather than resign to catastrophe, Roberts helped organize a big music festival, with headliner LeAnn Rimes. He hopes “Island Aid” will draw 20,000 visitors -- nearly as much as the fishing festival -- and generate some money for dozens of local businesses. Work together.
5. Sand Dollar Marina bar manager Terry Detillir churned up some business -- even with the dock closed for fishing -- through a creative new product: Tar Ball Shooters (Jagermeister plus grape jello). Other bars invented specials like Oil Spill Martinis and even held Oil Spill Wrestling nights. It may seem distasteful, but don’t be afraid to laugh.
6. Alicia and Thomas Barrios weren’t doing enough sales at their Barrios Seafood Restaurant in nearby Golden Meadow, LA. The oil spill had caused a drop off in tourists, a stigma on local seafood, and higher prices for seafood. Alicia says they stayed in business thanks to reimbursement checks from BP: “To be honest, if it wasn't for the BP check, we'd already be closed." Moreover, Thomas Barrios took a job with BP’s oil spill cleanup. Accept help -- even from the last place you’d expect it.
7. No dolphins have died in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. But somehow Blue Dolphin Cruises decided it would be a bad summer for business. The Orange Beach-based tour company changed the message on the answering machine: "Thank you for calling Blue Dolphin Cruises.” We are currently closed due to the oil spill." Whatever they are doing, it’s probably more profitable and fun than cruising the oil. If you can sit it out, sit it out.