Historic flooding in Hamburg changed lives, disrupted families and closed businesses.
And its effect will be felt long after recovery is accomplished by the city and its people.
Chris Bennett, a sole proprietor of  the former Corner Cottage flower shop, is very aware of the floods impacts. For her, the above factors were all felt.
The story begins for Bennett back in 2004 when she purchased a home on the corner of North and Main Streets with a plan to have a tea room at the location. Bennett said regulation of those kinds of businesses proved to be arduous and so she and her family brainstormed on another business idea.
Bennett’s son, Paul, suggested a flower shop. He had taken two different courses on the floral business and would be able to lend his expertise in setting it up and getting it going.
The start was indeed desired. Bennett said she wanted to get a business open and get some income generated.
At the start, the business made slow progress, but the Bennett family had faith and stuck to their plan. As time passed, they developed a niche in the community and delivered a much-needed service.
The Corner Cottage became affiliated with Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD) and BloomNet. Through online services and phone orders, more so than walk-ins, Corner Cottage busily filled orders.
Bennett’s husband, Wayne, helped deliver the flowers. Chris said her mother, Betty, also worked at the Corner Cottage before her passing.

It was a family interest and it created family time and invaluable memories as well as some income. Chris said she saw the business as more of a hobby, but since most hobbies cost money, and this one made money, it was definitely unique.
The venture also meant double-duty for Chris, who maintained a job at Stoner Drug in Hamburg. Between the two obligations, she occupied her time and enjoyed her adventures.
Enter the flood of 2011.
While the 2011 flood was a hard time for the town of Hamburg, blocking community access to the interstate, waters never came to town itself. Bennett had prepared as if those waters would make it. She cleared out the Corner Cottage and took all of her assets to higher ground even though the history of the 1993 flood suggested waters would not due significant damage to her property.
The 2011 event passed and the Corner Cottage went back to filling orders.
March of 2019 rolled around. And, with very little notice, Bennett plotted her next move. She remembered the decision of 2011 and thought that the flood water may not even reach her business. And that if it did, it might just flood the basement and possibly get the main floor, but not by much.
She took out some of her stuff, but she placed other stuff higher off the floor and felt as safe as someone can when facing a possible flood.
As everyone knows, it turned out worse. Much worse.
There was six to seven feet of water in the building. There was devastation.
Some weeks after the water’s arrival, Bennett took a boat ride down Main Street to the store, an experience that she described as a nightmare.
She remembers thinking, “This can’t be real that there is this much water here.”
And then she went inside of the building.
The boat got Bennett to the door and, when she entered, she saw water. She saw mud. The place had been ruined.
“I don’t know how people could go through more than one of those,” she said. “It just makes you sick.”
For several weeks, the family worked to muck out the space, to rid the building of mud and destruction and to pump water from the basement. Bennett said work sessions couldn’t be extra-long. Mucking was tiring work and the air was not healthy to breath for extended periods.
With the water table high, water continued to be in the property for weeks and months after the water had receded.
Looking back to the time she left Corner Cottage, the hours before and during the initial time of the flood, Bennett had been hopeful. Water was coming. She had been resigned to it. But then recovery.
After seeing the business from the boat, she had hoped the inside wouldn’t look as it did. And even then, she waited to see how clean up would go. She held onto hope.
The clean up wiped her out of energy and left her wondering how she could go forward. She needed help, funding that would put her Corner Cottage back together, but she couldn’t go into debt. The pressure on a small business to meet payments for a large loan might be too much.
From the damage, to the effort at recovery and the monetary reality, Bennett had finally come to the decision to end her business. Corner Cottage won’t be returning.
“I don’t have it in me. I just can’t do this,” Bennett recalls thinking.
That leaves Bennett at loose ends, for lack of a better way to say it. She still works at Stoner Drug. She still thinks about the Corner Cottage. Some days, she might even catch herself going in that direction to do work. Or she thinks about a weekend that might be lost because of an upcoming event.
And then she quickly remembers that her flower business is gone.
She has more free time now. But she struggles to fill the hours. It’s going to take time to process and to move forward from a floral venture that was so much more than flower arranging.
It was a big part of her life. It was a big part of her family. It was her personal business venture.
Well meaning folks have suggested that the Corner Cottage move and open somewhere new, but where could that be.
“Unfortunately in this town there are not too many someplace elses,” Bennett said.
What’s next?
Bennett says she doesn’t know for sure. Maybe a buy out will be available for the property. That would be good, with money coming in to help account for the loss. But it would be bad too, since the lot would sit forever empty.
Fixing up the house for a renter might be an option, but such a plan looks to be far away at this point.
It just comes down to coping and to dealing with what the flood took.
And then to cherishing the memories that water can’t wash away.