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Snow hurt some area businesses, helped others

POSTED: February 16, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Last week’s winter blast didn’t just paralyze traffic; it also froze up dollars consumers normally drop at area businesses.

And for some, that means a real setback.

“It’s either laugh or cry, so you might as well laugh,” said Don Griffin, owner of Frames You Nique on the Gainesville square. “It’s better for the blood pressure.”

A mix of mostly snow and sleet hammered the Hall County area starting Tuesday and in a couple more waves before ending Thursday morning, when the sun came out and temperatures began to rise.

But by then, the damage was done.

“At least we had a strong first half of the month,” Griffin said Friday morning, adding that his biggest concern was order delays.

He was taking the pain in stride.

“This is part of business in Georgia in the wintertime. You’ve got to plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

For some businesses, the storm was a hearty boon to the bottom line.

“Inclement weather increases business for us,” said Kent Scarbrough, general manager of the Holiday Inn Gainesville-Lanier Centre on E.E. Butler Parkway. “People needed a place to stay and eat, and that’s why we’re here.”

The storm couldn’t come at a worse time for Carol Slaughter, co-owner of Occasions Florist in Gainesville.

Friday was the first full day of good weather, and for a business needing to fill Valentine’s Day orders, that meant little time for anything else.

Bad weather “has put us way behind,” Slaughter said. “I don’t have time to talk. The phone is ringing off the hook and I’ve got orders to do.”

Tim Evans, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of economic development, said bad weather will impact businesses in various ways.

“For restaurants, it’s lost revenue they won’t be able to regain,” he said.

Some businesses could barely operate, with only a trickle of customers and workers unable to make the drive, Evans said.

The weather didn’t just hurt retail, though.

Kubota Manufacturing of America Co., a tractor and heavy equipment manufacturer at 2715 Ramsey Road, Gainesville, shut down Tuesday through Thursday, reopening at 10 a.m. Friday.

With many trucks on the road and some 2,000 employees between its Gainesville and Jefferson plants, “we decided to be safe” and err on the side of caution, said Phil Sutton, chief administrative officer.

But with orders to fill, “we have to play catch-up now,” he said. “It will cost us in terms of overtime and weekend work.”

He expects it will take about a month to get back on track.

Impact Forecasting, the arm of a London-based company that helps analyze the financial implications of catastrophic events, reported recently on the economic impact of storms that have ravaged the U.S. this winter.

It “has already become the costliest year for the winter weather peril since 2011,” said Steve Bowen, senior scientist and meteorologist. “... The combination of physical damages and business interruption costs have quickly aggregated into direct economic losses well into the billions of dollars.

Even some businesses that seemingly would benefit from the storms — such as grocery stores, with the TV images of empty bread shelves — are reeling.

Brenda Reed, spokeswoman for Publix’s Atlanta division, said, without disclosing an amount, that the weather “has definitely had an economic impact.”

Business may be brisk before storms, but it grows quiet when snow begins to fall and roads start becoming impassable.

Deliveries stop arriving, along with customers and employees. Power outages, especially in areas south of Hall County, also don’t help operations.

“We want to make sure we can provide services ... while making sure no one is in danger,” Reed said.


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