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After Pulse, Orange Avenue Businesses Open Again


As road crews remove the barriers on Orange Avenue, cars start to pour into the streets around the Pulse nightclub. As news crews thin out, more pedestrian traffic picks up.

Jason Wiggins is a District Manager at Einstein Bagels across the street from Pulse. He’s here to help get the restaurant up and running – a task that wasn’t easy.

"We opened at 9 this morning, normally we open at 5 in the morning," said Wiggins. "The impact was a little struggle to be able to open up 8 days after being closed."

Einstein restaurants across the region helped out by lending their ovens to make fresh baked pastries and bagels. Their corporate offices helped out, covering the wages of workers stuck at home.

Wiggins provided grief counselors for his staff, but getting back to work seems to be the best form of therapy for his employees. "It’s been nice to be able to open the doors and have my employees see their regulars and get that connection back instead of sitting at home and watching TV all day."

Other stores haven’t been so fortunate. A few doors down is Number 1 Celebrity Barbershop. Walking in, there’s not the familiar sound of buzzing clippers or chatter. Just the sound of the TV playing sports highlight.

Owner and Barber Carlos Sifuentes says the hit to his business was rough. "It's pretty bad, not that great. You lose part of your income. Income, salaries, and the barbers – we have bills to pay."

Help may be on the way. Businesses are asked to apply for assistance, which may come from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and ask their insurance companies if they can submit a claim.

Sifuentes is working to apply for those programs, but for now he hopes the community will support his barber shop.

"A lot of our clientele, some of them party at the club, and they were affected by it as well, the whole community," said Sifuentes. "It’s sad, but hopefully we’ll be back and stronger."

Next door, Keisha Ozias and her husband are getting back to work. They’re tattoo artists at Game Face Tattoo, and because they both work at the shop she says the closing was "pretty terrible. My husband and I are both out of work, it’s not just one income, it was both."

Over the weekend, tattoo shops across town offered Pulse-themed tattoos and donated the proceeds. Ozias felt left out.

"We couldn’t participate because we were closed," said Ozias. "We should definitely be the shop that’s participating. So hopefully we can go ahead and run some donations so we can go ahead and help the families out and stuff like that.

For 9 years, David Anthony Cuevas looked up from his cash register at Radio Shack to see Pulse. He’s back managing the store but he said it’s not like it used to be.

"It is such a weird feeling and aura that’s in the area. It’s good to be back at work," he said, but he's still saddened by the incident.

"A lot of people lost their lives, losing a week of pay doesn’t amount to anything quite like that."

He’s confident the community will come together and support the South Downtown shops.

Cuevas looks out the store front at Pulse still barricaded with a blacked-out fence and law enforcement guarding it. As customers return, he knows there’s a sense of normalcy. "But it’s not going to be what it quite was."

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."