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Landing a helping hand in Marblehead

The culprit, a two-inch pipe that burst two weeks ago at The Landing restaurant, causing it to shut down while the business is renovated. (Spenser R. Hasak)

MARBLEHEAD — When it rains, it pours. But in Marblehead, friends come bearing umbrellas.

After reopening shortly after ocean flooding tore up the floor boards of the waterfront restaurant, the crew at The Landing Restaurant thought it would be smooth sailing. But, the next day, as customers stopped in to support the local business, the building was hit with more water. A pipe burst in the attic, causing major damage and leaving the popular spot with closed doors for the unforseeable future. When members of the community caught wind, they started raising money for the dozens of employees who are now out of work.

“Our crew, some of them have been here for 12 or more years,” said General Manager Robert Simonelli. “In restaurant years, people being here for 12 years is like being here for 100 lifetimes. They’re family now. I know our insurance will come through eventually, but I’m worried about the staff who have families to provide for.”

At the beginning of the month, a storm surge combined with astronomically high tides led to record amounts of flooding across the North Shore. The Landing, which has experienced more minor coastal flooding in the past, took in feet of water on Thursday, Jan. 4.

The floors were torn up by the fearsome tide and the swell of ocean waves, allowing saltwater to spray throughout the restaurant. Floor boards, which rose and fell with each ebb and flow of the seawater, were replaced the following afternoon and the pub and dining room reopened that Saturday.

But as customers packed in to support the restaurant for Sunday brunch, water began to fall from the ceiling fixtures and one regular customer exclaimed that it was raining inside, said Simonelli.

“We survived the flood like nothing and then it was a burst sprinkler pipe in the attic that completely flooded everything,” said Simonelli. “We lost the attic, the prep kitchen, the main kitchen, the pub. We have to tear everything up, pull down the walls and ceiling, and the floors. We will be out for two months, if we’re lucky.”

The crew is still waiting to hear back from its insurance agency for repair estimates, he said, and more than 30 employees are temporarily out of work.

An inspector immediately ordered all electricity turned off, and a sprinkler technician told Simonelli the burst pipe lost about 40 gallons during each of the 8 to 10 minutes it was spewing water.

About $24,000 worth of food was lost between the submerged prep area and the loss of electricity from refrigeration units.

“We all ate as much lobster as we could,” said Simonelli.

When other Marblehead business owners heard how long the restaurant was expected to be closed, they banded together to help raise money for the dozens of employees who are now out of work.

A fundraiser is planned for Thursday night at 5 p.m. at Wick’s Restaurant on Pleasant Street. Live music by the Guy Ford Band will start at 8 p.m., and a 50/50 raffle drawing will be at 9 p.m. At least a dozen prizes donated by local businesses will be raffled off.

“Guy Ford has been playing here since before the ’80s, so it’s totally appropriate to have that band there,” said Simonelli. “It’s part of the woodwork at The Landing; the wet woodwork.”

Rob Kipp and other local photographers have pledged framed photographs, Harbor Light Inn donated a weekend getaway, and Soall Bistro on Bessom Street, Barracuda Tavern in Boston, and G-Bar and Kitchen in Swampscott have donated gift cards.

“I come from the restaurant industry too and one reason I’ve always loved that industry is it’s a very tight knit community,” said Dan Donato, who works at OctoCog Marketing and Design in Salem and does design work for Wick’s. Donato approached a chef at Wick’s to get the fundraiser rolling, he said.

“A lot of times after ending a shift, everyone will congregate at one bar and trade stories from the night,” said Donato. “These businesses are technically competing against one another, but what benefits one usually benefits everyone.”

All proceeds from the event will go into an account for the employees of The Landing, set up by Simonelli at the National Grand Bank. The goal is to raise enough money to provide each employee with $500 Thursday night, said Donato.

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