Disastrous Effects

How does a business survive when it's too close to a national crisis for comfort?

One of the 115 employees of New York City architectural firm Gruzen Samton were injured in the attacks on the World Trade Center. But the company's offices, located in a building practically across the street from the doomed south tower, didn't fare so well.

"When the tower collapsed, it destroyed the facade of our building, and the offices were a total loss," says company principal Mike Kazan, 54, who was working in the company's Washington, DC, satellite office the morning of the attacks. In addition to millions of dollars in burned and broken furnishings and equipment, Gruzen Samton's losses included paper records, computer data, and thousands of irreplaceable photographic slides documenting the company's many projects.

Kristin Rhyne was nowhere near the twin towers, the Pentagon or the Pennsylvania field where hijackers crashed airliners on September 11. But the 31-year-old founder of Boston's Polished Inc.saw her business suffer damage nearly as extreme as Gruzen Samton. Rhyne, a Harvard Business School graduate building a chain of airport beauty spas, is dealing with new security rules forcing her to develop new manicure techniques that don't require sharp metal tools that would bar her from selling the previously innocuous-seeming manicure sets. In the immediate aftermath, potential customers stayed away from airports in droves, and those who did travel were snared in long lines at security checkpoints. "Our services have come back to 75 or 80 percent what they were," says Rhyne. "But it's a difficult scenario."

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Disastrous Effects.

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