The Herald Bulletin

January 9, 2014

The price of a snow day

Storm was costly for local businesses, but things could have been worse

By Traci Moyer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — A snowstorm that dumped nearly a foot of snow on the area became a historic event for several local businesses that lost business when they were forced to close during the inclement weather.

“Our loss is in the thousands,” said Clay Sexton, manager of Greek’s Pizzeria, 6317 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Sexton said his business has never closed during severe weather, but the risk to his employees was too great to remain open.

“It hurt our employees more than us,” he said of the decision to close. “They are all scrambling to do everything they can to make up those hours. We have one woman taking every shift she can.”

The pizzeria employees lost their wages when the restaurant closed on Sunday and did not reopen until Tuesday.

“Friday and Saturday our business was down between 20 to 35 percent and on Sunday we lost 75 percent of our business,” Sexton said.

Few businesses could remain open during the storm, and many more could not quickly reopen in its wake.

“Hoosier Park has closed for periods of a day several times because of inclement weather, but not for an entire day,” said Grant Scharton, spokesman for the facility located at 4500 Dan Patch Circle.

Scharton said the casino closed at 6 p.m. on Sunday and reopened at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

“It was certainly an unprecedented storm,” he said. “You have to go back to 1978 to even compare it to anything similar.”

Scharton said employees will be allowed to use paid time off days to cover the hours they missed due to the storm and special attendance policy standards were used during the dangerous weather conditions.

“Having to close our operations resulted in a financial drain, the extent of which cannot be completely determined until the close of the month,” Sharton said. “Some of that loss, but not all, may be made up based on upcoming conditions of winter weather.”

Michael Hicks, an economist for Ball State, said if the storm had hit later in the week, things would have been worse.

“I think this was far more muted than it could have been,” he said. "When you think about a storm like this – the timing is everything.”

Hicks said a storm that disrupts business for extended periods of time during busy times of the year can be devastating.

“Generally businesses do very well adapting to trade disruption,” he said.

The cost of lost business to the local economy during the snowstorm, Hicks said, will be offset slightly by the opportunities created, including plowing snow and snow removal.

He said businesses that provide services will have to work harder to make up the time lost, but they will be able to adapt to the situation.

Household costs were increased as people bought more food and items to maintain them in the event they were snowed in, but those items were not a complete financial loss to families because they will be consumed in the coming days, he said.

The greatest impact is being felt by new businesses, said Derrick Rogers, owner of Jimmy Johns, 4741 S. Scatterfield Road.

“We opened at the end of September and it doesn’t take a whole lot to throw our numbers off,” he said. “With any new business, you are going to have growing pains and a storm of that magnitude will affect a smaller business.”

Jimmy Johns closed early on Sunday — losing more than three hours of business — and opened late on Monday. Rogers said it will take months to recoup the loss in business.

“We lost about 80 percent of our business on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” he said. “For the entire week our sales were down 50 percent.”

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