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Storm both a boon, bust for business

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Wednesday’s wintry blast extended the Christmas holiday for many retail employees. But it was business as unusual for snow-removal workers who put in overtime to battle the accumulating snow.

Stores in FairOaks Mall and Edinburgh Premium Outlets were closed Wednesday, along with many government offices, health care providers such as PromptMed and manufacturers including Flambeau Inc. in Columbus and Honda in Greensburg.

Grocery and convenience stores for the most part remained open Wednesday, despite having some employees who couldn’t make it to work because of snow and blowing wind.

Walmart, Target, Kroger, Jay C, Marsh and Circle K stores in Columbus all operated normally.

Kroger prepared for the storm by sending resupply trucks with food and pharmaceuticals to stores early, said John Elliott, public affairs manager for the company’s central division, which includes the Columbus area.

During strong winter storms, people usually buy in bulk, Elliott said, and they usually buy the same types of items, such as milk, bread and disposable diapers. He said people also buy comfort foods and other items, such as chips, frozen pizza, beer and cigarettes.

Even if stores ran low, he said, the company has short supply lines, with many staples being shipped within Indiana.

Target stores, too, remained open, in part to provide affected communities access to winter storm essentials, spokeswoman Stacia Nelson said via email.

Mark Combs, executive director of marketing for

Jay C food stores, stressed that his company wants employees and consumers to be safe, so he didn’t mind when some of his workers asked to stay home.

Snow-removal companies expected to work late into the evening Wednesday, as wet, heavy snow covered parking lots — and covered it again as snowfall endured.

“We got all the contracts we can handle,” said Mark Douglas, owner of Grass Luvers.

His three crews, which include pickup trucks and skid steers, were plowing mostly for commercial customers. He said customers who called Wednesday probably would have to wait until today for service.

Craig Turner, of Lawns Plus, said he expected his crews to be plowing for a couple of days.

Though he welcomed the work, Turner said he typically charges commercial customers by square footage, which means he makes more money of a quick dusting of two or three inches than a daylong blizzard of 10 inches.

The heavy, wet snow is taking a long time to remove, Turner said.

But, after a mild winter a year ago and a dry summer that reduced revenues for his lawn-care business, Turner said, “We can’t complain.”

Some businesses remained open Wednesday but did not see a whole lot of customers, in part because people just stayed home rather than risk a slide-off on slick roads.

At home improvement store Lowe’s, snow blowers were not a hot-ticket item.

“I’ve sold one today,” Brian Branaman, customer service associate, said Wednesday morning. Snow shovels were selling better, he said, though the store still had plenty.

John Cottrill, owner of Affordable Tow & Recovery, said he, too, did not field many calls in the morning, probably because people were keeping their vehicles in their garages and driveways.

That seemed sensible to Turner, who said that municipal trucks going down 25th Street, for example, were pushing snow into two-foot-high berms on the side, making traveling difficult for most motorists.

“I wouldn’t recommend traveling,” Turner said.

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