LONG BEACH, NEW YORK -- In the hard months after Sandy devastated this beach town outside of New York City, there were times when small business co-owner Andrea Fitzgerald wasn't sure her sandwich shop, Paninis and Bikinis, would ever reopen.
"The day after the hurricane everything was upside-down," she said. "It was just a complete disaster."
But after fighting for grants and loans from the Small Business Administration, she was able to open half the restaurant just before the July 4th weekend. She hopes to get the the other half fixed up and reopened by the end of summer.
"It wasn't completely perfect and ready to open up, but the summer season is very short, and that's really the entire season that we can count on. So we just did what we could to open up the cafe," she said.
Added co-owner Jason Schatzberg: "It's a once in a lifetime experience and it's over, it's gone, and you rebuild your life, and you look forward."
The story of Paninis and Bikinis is the story of Long Beach, a community that is still scarred by the storm -- but not sunk. The sound of construction rings through this beach town on Long Island, which was hit so hard that locals talk about finding pieces of the destroyed boardwalk in backyards eight blocks inland.
"It was all sand. Debris all over. A lot of devastation," said Danny Liamero, surveying his street from his front porch.
Things are still far from normal in Long Beach. The hospital has not reopened, and many houses have yet to be rebuilt. And the boardwalk still isn't back, even though .
A portion of Long Beach's new, $44 million boardwalk is set to open later this month. The rest should be finished by the end of the year. After a community vote, Long Beach is rebuilding it with concrete reinforcements and a retaining wall, so that the next major storm isn't able to do so much damage.
"We're building a safer and stronger boardwalk. We hope this boardwalk will last for 100 years," said City Council Member Eileen Goggin, who stressed that the community is open for business, even as the work of rebuilding continues.
"The beach open. Some people are not in their homes yet, but Long Beach is thriving," she said.
Back at Paninis and Bikinis, co-owner Jason Schatzberg is taking the long view.
"People that love Long Beach are here," he said. "Yes, of course, there are people who aren't here. But they are coming back slowly. And this community is gonna thrive like never before. It's just gonna take some time."