Ready to get back to work

Business owners juggle lives amid evacuation

EAST PALESTINE — Elisha Veon is exhausted from trying to juggle her food truck business during the evacuation that’s left residents and business owners scrambling after Friday’s train derailment.

Veon, owner of Babcia’s Lunchbox, a mobile food truck specializing in homemade Polish food, is staying at an Airbnb in Warren with her husband, Robert, after the two were evacuated from their East Martin Street home.

She has no access to the food truck, parked at their home, and said she’s using donated kitchen space in Warren to prepare food for an event Friday at Modern Methods Brewing Co.

About 50 cars, some carrying hazardous chemicals, derailed Friday on the way from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Pa., according to Norfolk Southern and the National Transportation Safety Board. Remediation got underway Tuesday, but no timeline was given for when residents and businesses can return.

“They’re doing the best they can, I know that,” Veon said Tuesday by phone.

Tom Brittain, owner of Brittain Motors Chevrolet, said the dealership, which has been in his family 98 years, has been closed since Saturday.

“I know my guys all want to get back to work, as do I,” he said. “I can’t wait to get our customers taken care of.”

Even though most of his work is remote, Eric Oltmann, owner of Bush Heating on East Taggert Street, said it’s been tough because multiple deliveries for supplies he needs have been canceled in the last few days.

His shop, which is about a half mile west of the derailment site, is closed indefinitely, and he’s not heard an estimate of when he can reopen.

“It’s more of an inconvenience than anything,” he said by phone.

Tara Hicks, general manager for O.T. Beight and Sons, said the shop, which specializes in cemetery monuments, is about 5 miles outside the evacuation zone.

Even though this is considered the slow season for monuments, Hicks said “things have been rather slow” since the derailment.

On Tuesday, at the Swift Mart on state Route 14, residents and workers stopped by for gas, food and drinks. Most wouldn’t speak on record, including a few wearing Norfolk Southern shirts.

Customer Jim Gerazounis, of Enon Valley, Pa., said he lives abut 2 miles from the derailment but said he spent Monday night at a hotel in Beaver Falls, Pa. He said he doesn’t know if he can trust what officials are saying about the impact.

“I heard the explosion and it looked like an atomic bomb went off,” he said. “I wasn’t hanging around to see what happened.”

Owners of Swift Mart declined to comment, as did most customers.

For D.J. Yokley, founder and CEO of Your Sports Network, 169 E. Taggert St., the derailment has posed challenges for staff since the office is the place they gather to plan their regional sports coverage. His business is less than a mile from the wreckage, and Yokley said he knows his office probably is contaminated. He and his family also live in the village.

Yokley was in Las Vegas covering the Pro Bowl when the train derailed. He landed at Akron-Canton Airport Monday night and has since been staying with his wife’s family in Pittsburgh until they can return.

The same “gritty” and “determined” community that helped shape YSN will find its way back, Yokley said.

“We have to muster on,” he said. “East Palestine will bounce back.”


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