Business start January with a weather-related slump

Published 8:28 pm Sunday, January 7, 2018

A winter storm delivering snow and frigid temperatures put a crimp in starting New Year’s business with a bang.

The county was blanketed in 4-to-6 inches of snow overnight Thursday. Thursday morning, business owners awoke to roads covered in snow and ice, and the warning from emergency management officials to stay home. Most chose to keep the “closed” sign on the door and wait it out.

For The Bank Bistro & Bar and Grub Brothers Eatery owner Roger Meyland, the choice to close the popular downtown restaurants wasn’t only about how many customers would be walking in the door.

“I really base it on the safety of the employees, and their ability to get to work,” Meyland said. “First, it’s ‘Can we get the staff here?’ then ‘Do we have enough food, can we get a delivery? Is anybody going to come out?’”

Meyland said his restaurants are usually only closed three days out of the year, so to be closed two and half days at the start of the year is highly unusual.

“Even it’s only a handful of people (coming in), we really try to be open so people can get some food, be around other people,” Meyland said.

Being closed two and half days also due to weather had quite an impact on restaurants, especially with the expense of heating large spaces in older downtown buildings.

“This is a kick in the teeth. Anytime you lose $10, $12, $15,000 of business in the course of several days, it hurts,” he said. “All the equipment is running; the electricity is being used, but there’s not revenue coming in.”

While businesses can purchase insurance that would cover loss of income during weather events, for smaller businesses the cost outweighs the benefits.

“In the hurricanes, I lost $11,000 of food in two places. If the insurance premium is $12-13,000 a year, you’d just break even,” Meyland said. “You have to sit down with a commonsense way of looking at it: ‘Am I really going to be able to justify this expense?’”

Around the corner, Rachel Midgette, owner of Rachel K’s Bakery, gave employees a 10-day break over Christmas and New Year’s. The bakery was set to up Thursday morning, but snow prevented. Midgette postponed reopening a day and arrived early Friday morning only to encounter another problem.

“I got to work and realized the parking lots hadn’t been scraped. There was nowhere for my employees to park,” Midgette said.

After the Christmas break, everyone was equally excited about coming back to work.

“My employees, obviously, all want to get paycheck,” Midgett said. “We were eager to open. Anything’s better than nothing.”

Saturday, Rachel K’s was open for business again, with a slow but steady stream of customers. Regardless, it’s not the same level of traffic downtown businesses are accustomed to, according to Midgette.

“It’s pretty dramatically different than what I would normally expect the first couple of days of January,” she said. “I’m hoping that next week we’ll get back to normal.”