Families and business owners in the path of the tornado outbreak that caused massive damage said they will never forget the storms that turned their lives upside down. Even a year later, many are still dealing with the damage.
In the path of the tornado was North Haven Gardens; a nearly 70-year-old business that took a direct hit from the storm.
“My grandfather actually started the business back in 1951,” owner Aaron Pinkus said. “Hard times breed strong people and that’s essentially what this has been for us.”
For three generations, North Haven Gardens has served Dallas, and like others in the area, it was nearly wiped off the map by one of several tornadoes that hit North Texas on Oct. 20, 2019.
“It was really a devastating experience to have that turn into a pile of rubble,” Pinkus said. “I’m stepping over power lines; not sure if they are active or not. Walking down the street and the trees are down. The neighbors are out and everybody is in a state of shock.”
Shock soon became determination to reopen quickly and serve a community that was hurting.
“One of the difficult things for us was how can we, in this big pile of rubble, transform ourselves into something that can help support the people across the street and down the road and other people affected by the tornado,” Pinkus said. “It was really important for us to get up and running as quickly as we can.”
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Weeks after facing their won destruction, North Haven Gardens decided to hold a “survivor sale.”
“It’s amazing. The winds of a tornado can pick up these massive structures, but there were thousands of plants that were still in the rubble and on the benches that looked great and needed a home,” Pinkus said.
It turns out the event was exactly what the community and surrounding neighborhoods needed and North Haven Gardens became a rallying point for those still working through the tornado aftermath.
“The turnout was incredible. The community was extremely supportive. We had cars parked up and down the street like I’ve never seen before,” Pinkus said. “I came in to check it out and it was a very emotional time to see that we had that kind of support from the community.”
With the community still trying to rebuild, a second storm came to North Texas – this time a metaphoric storm in the form of a global pandemic. There are still homes, businesses and schools covered in tarps as if the tornado happened just yesterday.
“It’s been a very very challenging year,” Pinkus said. “There are a lot of reasons people are not able to get up and running right away not related to the tornado, but the environment that we are all in right now.”
Pinkus said he hopes that North Haven Gardens can offer some outdoor comfort to a community that was there for them in the days and weeks after the tornado.
Construction has been ongoing and they have opened some buildings, hope to have another open for the one-year anniversary of the storm and are working to open the garden’s restaurant and a new store in the future.
“It’s a hidden blessing and it gives my wife and I the opportunity to take something that’s been here for almost 70 years and turn it into something new and modern,” Pinkus said.