Despite disruptions, midstate businesses weather storm

lmorris@macon.comJanuary 30, 2014 

The Karsten-Denson Co. hardware store on Macon’s Ingleside Avenue was one of the few businesses that opened Wednesday while most of Middle Georgia shut down in the wake of Tuesday night’s snow storm.

But that didn’t mean owner Johnny Davis raked in the dough.

“We didn’t do much business (Wednesday), because no one was out and about,” he said. “The few people who found us were really glad we were here because they really need salt” to help melt ice.

He was much busier Tuesday when he sold several gas and electric heaters, pipe insulation and salt, he said.

“I probably sold more heaters that I would have,” Davis said.

With a busy Tuesday and a slow Wednesday, Davis estimates he probably broke even.

“It was probably, overall, a wash,” he said.

Some retailers may not have seen a huge drop in sales for the week when they had to close for a day or so, because shoppers who didn’t shop Wednesday probably will return another day. But other businesses, such as restaurants, can’t make up the revenue lost from closing.

“There are winners and losers in this, but at the end the losses to the losers from these types of situations are greater than the gains to the winners,” said Greg George, associate professor of economics at Middle Georgia State College. “The impacts are net negative from these storms, but I think this one was fairly mild. We got off the hook pretty easy. It was a good snow day for a lot of people.”

Ken McCall, owner of McCall’s Tastes to Remember restaurant in Warner Robins, said once he learned Robins Air Force Base -- where many of his customers work -- was not going to be open Wednesday, he didn’t open either.

McCall mostly worried about his hourly employees who need a full paycheck.

“I have one single mother with two children ... and she needs all the hours she can get,” he said. “Others are college students with school expenses. ... I’ll survive. My wife and I both work. One or two days will not stop us from making a house payment. ... But I can’t get back those dollars.”

Tina Dickson, owner of Ingleside Village Pizza who has two Macon locations, said she had every intention of opening Wednesday. But after two employees called saying they couldn’t get to work, “we took a snow day,” she said.

“There’s no way to make it up, but there’s nobody to blame,” Dickson said. “I’m not going to lose sleep over it. We’ll have a good one next week. ... We don’t get to play in the snow very often. I had a great day.”

Britt Thames, executive vice president of Macon-based Trading Post Moving & Storage, said his workers had to hustle before and after the snow to make up for not working Wednesday.

“The day before the weather moved in, we had to add crew to the jobs to get them completed quicker so we could get everybody back in the office before the weather moved in,” Thames said. “Then we delayed everything a day due to the weather, so we had a busier day (Thursday) catching back up.”

George, with Middle Georgia State College, said the economic impact of a closed business can trickle down.

“If you are a retailer, you might lose a couple of days of sales. And if you do not pay your employees, that’s less money in their pockets to go spend on things,” George said. “It can be more serious for some businesses more than others.”

While some people went to gas stations Monday to fill up their cars, “that means they didn’t need to fill their tank for a week, so it may have hurt Thursday and Friday sales,” he said. “So some of it can be a wash.”

Bill Baker, senior general manager of The Shoppes at River Crossing, said it is difficult to determine the “true impact or dollar value the weather had on our business over the last few days.”

“Sure there are those customers that either came back today or will come by this weekend for items they wanted to purchase yesterday,” Baker said. “However, whenever you close a business for a day, there are going to be those sales dollars that you will not recoup.”

Kroger, which did not close during the storm, had a lot of customers prior to the snow, said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications.

The stores were busy with customers buying staples such as bread, eggs, milk, bottled water, hot cereals, soups and ingredients to make stews and chili, Jenkins said in an email.

“Customers braced for the forecasted winter weather event and prepared accordingly,” he said. “Business was slower than usual on Wednesday as more customers were reluctant to venture out due to the weather and road conditions.”

Shane Gottwals, owner of Gottwals Books in Macon, Byron, Warner Robins and Perry, said he closed early Tuesday and didn’t reopen until late Thursday.

“Our customers are really good at monitoring when it’s going to be nasty outside,” Gottwals said. “They bought enough books so they would OK through the storm. ... So they prepared well. Overall, I would say it has been a minimal impact. (Thursday) people are stocking back up.”

Gottwals said he spent part of the unexpected day off playing in the snow with his 2-year-old.

“Any little bit we lost was made up with family time,” he said.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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