The owners of Amarena Bakery & Bistro experienced both the worst and best of humanity during Hurricane Irma when the plywood protecting their storefront was ripped off and stolen as the storm approached.
Through a last-minute plea on social media, the husband and wife who left crime-ridden Venezuela to open shop in Lauderhill less than a year ago were able to protect their business with the help of friends and strangers alike.
"Irma helped us meet the two faces of the coin," says Daniela Oyarzabal, who owns the bakery alongside her husband Ariel.
"We left for Georgia to avoid the storm," she explains. "When a friend called to ask us why we took down our plywood, we were sure he must have been referring to the wrong plaza."
A photograph confirmed that, indeed, all 21 pieces of plywood had been stolen.
The couple, waiting out the storm in a small town in Georgia with their two young daughters, were stunned.
"We didn't know what to do. We didn't have any more wood; we couldn't return to Florida. So it occurred to me to ask for help through social media. The response was incredible. People started calling me, writing me; they offered to come and help us. Complete strangers leaving their home to help."
Other local shop owners pitched in as well, including a neighboring artisanal yogurt shop, Aroa Craft Yogurt + Cafe, also owned by Venezuelans.
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By Saturday afternoon, the storefront had a patchwork of plywood and metal protecting the homey bakery — which specializes in Argentine favorites such as alfajor cake, rogel, and balcarce — from the wrath of the impending storm. The move proved fortuitous, because a tree in front of their shop succumbed to the winds.
"I don't know what would have happened had we not had it protected," she says.
The Oyarzabals hope to have their shop up and running by Friday. "We lost everything that was refrigerated; we have to start from zero," Daniela says. Still, they remain optimistic. "I imagine the desperation of the people who stole our wood. It was 21 pieces of plywood we put up and 21 pieces of plywood they took down."
Amarena Bakery & Bistro. 4613 N. University Dr., Lauderhill; 954-908-1898; amarenabakery.com. Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.