Cold & snow costly to local businesses PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 11:35
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Server Amber Bodi clears a table Wednesday at Kermits in BG. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Monday and Tuesday's snow fall, high winds, and arctic temperatures shuttered many businesses around the county.
"A 'seat of the pants' view from a walk around downtown Tuesday showed about 95 percent of the businesses were closed," Barbara Ruland, executive director of Downtown BG said Wednesday.
"It was like a ghost town," Ruland added.
"Numerous businesses were, of course, closed" in Bowling Green, said Earlene Kilpatrick, executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, "but we are seeing more traffic, and more cars out and about just in general. I'm sure our businesses are very anxious to get back to normal and be able to serve their customers."
As far as putting a number on how much the storm has cost the area, Michael Carroll, director for the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University, said that's hard to figure.
He doesn't know of any "cool, quick and dirty" formula that could pinpoint the cost. "It's really hard to measure."
The shock would have come to retail operations, restaurants and gas stations. Also, if factories had to close for more than a shift or two, that would be costly.
Still, Carroll said, "it would be something that's not long-lasting at all."
The biggest cost, he said, will be for all the workers called in to clean up the mess.
Auditor Michael Sibbersen weighed how the storm may have affected tax coffers in Wood County, but he estimated that the economic impact could have gone either way, positive or negative.
Regarding Monday and Tuesday, when most consumers weren't allowed to be out driving, "those would be days when a lot of retail stores would be closed or looking at lesser sales than what they might have had if people were available to go," he said.
"You could also make the argument that there's pent up demand, and you could see an overall net decrease because of a lesser ability to shop," he continued.
Sibbersen said the weather probably had little effect on real estate taxes but likely took a toll on the state gasoline tax. Although it's split between all Ohio counties, travel in Northwest Ohio was restricted by snow emergencies, making it likely that less fuel was purchased.
"You could make the argument easily that the gas tax probably suffered because so many people were unable to be on the roads," Sibbersen said.
Power out
First Solar's production facility in Perrysburg Township was closed on Monday and Tuesday as wind whipped the snow and temperatures plummeted. Steve Krum, First Solar's director of global communications, said in an email that "a small staff essential to maintaining site safety and integrity remained on duty." Production resumed at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Krum said that "the shutdown had no notable impact on revenue."
WCNet.org, an internet provider for northern Ohio and southern Michigan headquartered in Bowling Green, faced outage issues during the storm.
One outage on Tuesday took down the entire network. "We did have an administrator on the road yesterday that had to fix the problem that just required some equipment to be rebooted," said Denise Krupp, WCNet's director, said.
Some smaller outages continued Wednesday.
"Today (Wednesday) we're getting probably about 10 percent higher call volume than would have been on a normal day, but we're getting them handled. Everyone's been very kind and understanding. Any down time is a big deal to us."
Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, which is typically closed Monday and Tuesday, was closed on Wednesday for snow removal. Pictures posted to its Twitter account bore testament to the amount of snow accumulated at the site.
"For us, it's not as big a thing because we're just slower in the wintertime anyway," said Site Director Rick Finch. "We didn't see a huge amount of revenue lost because most people come out in the summertime for the fort as it is. We're just glad it happened this week and not next week," when a lecture is planned on Jan. 16.
"The bigger concern for us was getting somebody in to make sure that heat was still working and the pipes hadn't froze," said Finch.
He predicted that people might flock to the site over the weekend to cure their cabin fever.
Shuttered
Knowing their employees could be ticketed for being on the streets, many businesses chose to shutter their doors for the duration of the storm, including restaurants, shops and manufacturing plants, including GKN Driveline, located in Woodbridge Park, Bowling Green. The plant was closed from 10 p.m. Sunday until 7 a.m. Wednesday
Dennis Gallo value stream manager for GKN, said, "For us, it went beyond any economical considerations. It was driven by our number one concern - the safety of our employees."
Chip Myles owns and operates both Myles Dairy Queen and Myles Pizza Pub on East Wooster. He closed both businesses on Monday and the Dairy Queen on Tuesday.
Myles said the did open the pizzeria Tuesday, but offered no delivery.
"We opened the pub from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday," he said. "My thinking was of the guys working and plowing out in the weather. I wanted to give them a place to come and take a break."
He said the plan met with mixed success. Though certainly not as busy as normal he said many customers were happy to visit or come and pick up their order. On the whole for the three days, Myles said he probably lost 60 percent of his normal business at the pub.
For DQ, he said he might as well have been closed on Sunday as there was virtually no business Sunday.
"It was horrible," he said of Sunday, thus losing the three days was at least 30 percent of his weekly income.
Sunday was not much better for the pizzas. Myles said his busiest days are Friday through Sundays.
"Those days are golden, so to lose one of those days is like losing a golden coin. I lost a gold coin," Myles said.
Kermit's restaurant on South Main tried to open Monday morning but when the snow emergency went to "level 3" Cassy Maas, the store manager said she closed up after only an hour.
"I didn't want to make all my employees to risk their lives," Maas said. "I also knew most of my customers were not going to come in."
She added, "It was not a good thing, but you can't help what Mother Nature gives you. You just have to deal with the conditions."
Kermit's opened at regular hours and despite losing an estimated 20 percent of her weekly sales, she said some of those losses could be made up with people coming in the rest of the week.
After the noon lunch hour Wednesday Maas said, "It's been pretty steady since 9 a.m. A lot of people have cabin fever and just want to get out. We ran out of our special and had to make another one."
The Shops at Levis Commons in Perrysburg closed both Monday and Tuesday
According to the general manager Charlene Scott, they tried initially planned to open up later on Monday, but when the snow emergency hit Level 3, the directive was to close the entire complex.
Despite the directive, Scott said the movie theater and the restaurants are allowed to open at their discretion.
With the doors closed to the public, Scott said obviously the shops lost income, but they also did not have the cost of employees being paid.
"The Town Center makes the determination on closing," she said. "This will hurt everybody in the whole area."
Similar to Maas, she said some of the shops may get a bump the rest of the week. "There might be some returns and gift cards out there that people will want to use now."
She also shared that many of the stores will likely increase their discounts on items and add some additional sale savings, noting, "That's just a general fact,"
Busy plows
While the closures have negatively impacted many businesses, for the independent snow plow operators it has been a boom.
Adam Dilsaver, owner of ASD Lawn Care and Snow Removal, said the recent storm has had his operations "swamped."
He explained that this storm has generated at least three times if not more than a normal two-inch snowstorm.
The business has contracts with both residential and commercial customers. Each contract requires them to plow whenever there is two inches or more of snow.
With the blowing and drifting, they have had to plow many of the same businesses repeatedly since Sunday's first snowfall, just to try and keep them clean.
Using two trucks, a skid loader and a back hoe/end loader, he and his crew armed with shovels and snow blowers have been going almost non-stop until Wednesday.
"I finally got about five hours of sleep today," Dilsaver said on Wednesday.
Prior to that, he said, both he and his crew would just take short naps "here and there" for roughly a couple of hours.
The storm has obviously been a boom for business, but he also noted the added costs of more labor, more fuel and its harder on the equipment.
"I put $400 in fuel into just one truck within a week," Dilsaver said.
Beyond his contracted clients, he said he also tries to get to others when he can.
"It's impossible to get to everybody. I apologize to those who have called that I have not been able to get to," he said. "I get one voice mail and the phone is ringing three more times before I can get that one handled."
With it being still early in January, Dilsaver says this year's business has already been "huge compared to the last few years."
 

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