With the cold wind whipping up fine dust and rattling the sliding shed doors, the Terleckey family labored together to get Karen’s Produce & Ice Cream ready to open today — its first day of business since Tropical Storm Irene severely damaged it.
“We had to rip out the walls,” said Deanna Nelson, manager of the ice cream stand and one of the Terleckey siblings. “The Sheetrock and insulation was soaked with mud, so it all had to come down.”
Karen’s, situated on Route 5S at the confluence of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River, was hit hard by the flood. The family has been working on the structure nonstop since the water receded, a job made indescribably harder by the loss of their father and leader.
Stephen Terleckey, 72, died during the flood last August while driving to check on Karen’s. His truck was washed off Route 5S.
“It was a long, emotional recovery,” Nelson said, standing in a bright, newly paneled room that will be dedicated to Stephen Terleckey. “It will be hard to do what he did. Just the knowledge he had from farming his whole life. It’s going to be a difficult summer, but we’ve come a long way, over a lot of hurdles.”
And there have been many.
“All around the building it looked like it had been hit by a bomb,” said sibling Mary Beth Rackowski. “There were truck fenders in the yard, a piece of equipment that we didn’t even know what it was, wrapped around the sign out front, and countless orange construction cones were in the field.”
For months the family had to drive on the bike path to get to Karen’s, avoiding the closed section of Route 5S where the pavement washed away.
The new picnic tables, paneling and beams, all smelling of pine fresh from the lumber yard, are obvious markers of what the flood ruined, but Karen’s also lost most of its equipment to the water.
“We were just lucky that an ice cream shop in Massachusetts was going out of business,” Nelson said. “We were able to get their machines.”
Karen’s is a family operation, with Nelson managing the stand while one of her sisters does the advertising and her brothers work mostly in the fields. Each person has his or her own role in the business.
Nelson credits Karen’s successful recovery to the family pulling together through their grief.
“We were very determined,” Nelson said. “My father was 72 and he worked on the farm seven days a week. We must have his perseverance. [Today] is his birthday. Our goal was to open by his birthday and we’re going to make it.”