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Residents thankful for few places that are open
Mellow Mushroom kept its doors open during the first two days of this week’s winter storm, feeding many customers with limited staff. From left, Drew Turner and Wendell Turner chat Tuesday afternoon after a meal with Trey Hildebrant and Adam Kersh.

For businesses that could open, Tuesday was a hectic day filled with many customers and few employees.

“Yes, we are open,” read florescent orange signs outside Mellow Mushroom on Green Street in Gainesville.

Inside, the restaurant operated with about half of its staff. The owner played school bus driver Monday and Tuesday, trekking around town to pick up employees, manager Tim Cox said as he jumped between manning the hostess stand and clearing tables.

“Everybody is being understanding,” he said. “Being one of the only places in town that’s open, people are just happy we’re here.”

Sitting at a corner table, a group of five finishing up their lunch said getting out of the house was a necessity Tuesday. Cabin fever, they said, was starting to set in.

“It’s been a lot of food. A lot of TV,” said Drew Turner. “A lot of food.”

“And a lot of sleep,” said Trey Hildebrant from across the table.

“It was cyber Monday all over again,” Turner said with a laugh.

Cooped up in a cold house all day, he had hopes to buy a zebra-patterned Snuggie to stay warm, he said, but his dreams were crushed when the site canceled overnight deliveries because of the storm.

Down the street, Publix on Thompson Bridge Road operated with 13 employees when they’d normally have between 30 and 40. Just four employees opened the store on Monday.

Lights in the deli section were dark and no seafood had been sold in a few days. But customers seemed happy just to get their hands on the essentials.

“Nobody has complained. They’re just grateful we’re open,” said Skyla Lowe, assistant store manager. “...They’re just happy we have bread and milk.”

Deliveries planned for Monday were moved up to Sunday, Lowe said, so the store hasn’t run out of anything.

As she lifted a bushel of firewood from the checkout counter into her cart, Meg Henson said she walked to the store to

pick up the necessities. Luckily, she ran into a family friend who was going to give her a ride back with her bags.

At Riverside Pharmacy, co-owner Scottie Barton continued to fill prescriptions Tuesday.

“It’s one of those things, some people plan ahead and get medications beforehand,” he said. “But then there are some of us who think everything will be OK. ... You’ve got to be here for the clients.”

Kay Gilleland shook snow off her shoes as she walked into the pharmacy. Her street in Clermont is still iced over, she said, so her son braved the roads in a bright yellow Ford Escape to help Gilleland pick up her prescriptions.

If Riverside weren’t open, she said, she’d be in trouble. But she has other more pressing concerns.

She chipped a tooth Monday night at dinner.

And her dentist, she said, isn’t picking up the phone.

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