Gone are the waterlogged boxes of food and supplies. Gone are the tables and chairs marked with water stains. Gone is the carpeting covered with mud and debris. Gone are the broken dreams.
In its place are new tables and chairs. New carpeting. New appliances. New dishes and silverware. And most importantly, a new attitude.
Dishes of India reopened this month; it was not without a lot of pain, sweat, frayed nerves, prayer, determination and help from the right sources.
On hand for the celebration last week were several people who helped to make the reopening a success. Bill Reagan, director, Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC), said, "A lot of staff worked with small businesses, but this was a labor of love for Ruth [Copeland]," said Reagan. "She really enjoyed working with Naresh."
Reagan acknowledged the efforts of the SBA Disaster Assistance Area 1 Office and said that they already had a good relationship with them before Hurricane Isabel last September. It was very easy to help them get setup in Alexandria quickly after the hurricane struck. He also was thankful for efforts by Congressman Jim Moran (D-8) and Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland.
"They were very helpful in getting us permits, licenses, inspections and more," said Reagan.
WHEN THE OFFICIAL celebration began, Reagan welcomed the group gathered outside the newly reopened Dishes of India in the Belle View Shopping Center. He recognized the people from his office, Ruth Copeland, Gloria Flanagan and Jack Parker.
"This is such a happy day," said Reagan. "A lot of people helped out."
Reagan introduced Cong. Moran, and said "We were able to call on Jim Moran. Every time we call on him, he says 'yes.'"
Moran thanked the SBA, SBDC, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and Kurt Kranz, manager of the shopping center.
"This is a real testament to the character of humanity and what can be done when you believe in something. When the government works with private industry, there's no barrier that's insurmountable. This experience will inspire others," said Moran.
Hyland said, "I remember when I saw Naresh and others standing in front of Dishes two weeks after the flood. There was not much hope and total frustration. Since then, we've learned a lot and now have the challenge of determining how to prevent floods. You're thought so much of, and it's good to have you back. We will do our best to keep the water out forever.
Chief proprietor Naresh Bhatt thanked the crowd and said that they've been busy every night since they opened.
Also on hand for the celebration was Jody Keenan, Director, Virginia Small Business Development Center; Susie Warner, Congressman Jim Moran's District Director; Charles Lawon, Marketing & Outreach Specialist, Washington District Office, U.S. SBA; and Richard Walker, Chairman of Board of Alexandria SBDC.
INSIDE, GUESTS SAMPLED two new dishes prepared by the chefs: Chicken Chaat and Chaat Pabri. Both were served with the popular Naan bread. Mango Lassi was also served; this mango-flavored yogurt drink was very refreshing on a hot day.
Head Waiter Manoj Duwady greeted the guests as if they were old friends, which indeed many of them are. He said that they tried to use the same décor as before with subtle changes. He and the other wait staff worked elsewhere while the restaurant was being renovated, but readily returned when it reopened. With three years of employment at Dishes of India, he said, "It's been more like a reunion with old friends."