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Damaged businesses on road to recovery

First order of business for Carrie and Al Alvarez after the tornado: replace the sign on their bridal store.

Second order of business: increase insurance coverage.

All they lost was the sign on their store, Ambiance Bridal. But the 7-Eleven on the other side of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard lost its entire roof, and the canopy over the gas pumps fell.

"We were quite fortunate," Mrs. Alvarez said. "We'll up the insurance right after we find out about temporary signs."

At the other end of the Morritt Shopping Center, at Hercules Avenue and Gulf-to-Bay, Mr. Formal had water pouring in through a hole in the roof Monday.

Manager Linda Carbone said it could have been worse. The hole was over the dressing rooms, not over the tuxedos, cash register or computer equipment. The store had power and kept its usual hours Monday, she said.

Across the street, beside the 7-Eleven, Office Products Warehouse was without power all day Monday. Workers used a generator to power vacuum cleaners so they could clean up glass from broken windows.

On Tuesday, salesman Bill Schmidt swept glass in the parking lot. The broken windows were boarded up and the power was on again. City workers had replaced signs saying "Hercules Avenue" and "STOP," which had blown through vehicles in the parking lot.

Nearby, at the Sterling Apartments on Nimbus Avenue, workers boarded up windows and covered holes in the roof. Seven of the 10 apartments had been vacated.

"We're going to lose all our tenants," said Pauna Krtanik, who has owned the building with her husband, Frank, for 12 years. "This is our living."

The couple hired a company to help them deal with contractors and insurance companies.

Instead of flipping burgers Tuesday, workers at the Checkers Drive-In Restaurant at Missouri Avenue and Belleair Road cleaned up the parking lot. The exterior of the restaurant was damaged by a downed power pole, a flag pole and part of the roof from the church across the street.

"We're trying to put one foot in front of the other," said owner Ken Olipra, who was not allowed to visit his damaged restaurant until midnight Monday because of fallen power lines.

He said he hoped to have the restaurant reopened this morning.