Area businesses feel winter chill

The storm that slammed the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states throughout the weekend left a number of local businesses hurting in its wake after what became two days of lost revenue for most.

Area residents swarmed a number of local stores following one of the six worst snow storms to hit the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region since 1885. Swarms of vulture-like customers charged through the aisles at Wal-Mart and Shoppers Food Warehouse on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge, seeking to recover items that dwindled slowly from their shelves during the storm.

Businesses were affected differently, depending on the service or product they provide to customers.

Area restaurants were hit especially hard, because a night out to eat is not an “item” most people will go out for again if they’ve missed their first opportunity.

“This is nobody’s fault,” said Kevin Chu, manager of the Charbroiled Grill in Woodbridge. “It’s just Mother Nature.”

The grill was hit especially hard after being closed for two days. And, business hasn’t been great lately anyway, according to Chu.

Five Guys burger restaurant employee Delmi Gonzalez said there were fewer customers as a result of the snowfall. Five Guys was closed Sunday and opened late on Monday.

And when people are stuck inside, what is a perfect dinner? Pizza. But, deliveries were shut down as well, said Qasim Ali, manager of the Woodbridge Plaza Pizza Hut. All that was available Sunday was take-out. But, most people weren’t driving for pizza. And because of the inclement weather and crummy business, he closed down Monday. Ali didn’t want to put his “[delivery] drivers on the road.” It was too dangerous, he said. Deliveries were back online mid-day Tuesday, but were limited because of conditions in his parking lot, he said. Driver’s couldn’t make it in, or get back out easily.

Car dealerships also lost a significant amount of money Monday — not only in sales, but in advertising as well. Monday — President’s Day is one of the best days of the year for auto dealerships.

Hendricks Jeep in Woodbridge was closed both Sunday and Monday. Saturday saw good sales, because “the roads were still passable,” said Duane P. Bushee, general sales manager.

But Bushee isn’t too worried about losses.

“I don’t think anyone is not going to buy a car because of snow,” he said, explaining that if a person wanted a car on Monday, that person will still want one a different day.

And for car salesmen, an already short month has been shortened by a day, according to Robert Clater, general sales manager at Koon’s Used Car Outlet in Woodbridge. His dealership lost between $50,000 and $75,000 during the storm alone. And, Clater said, those numbers are a conservative estimate. Business was still difficult Tuesday, as many customers were still having a difficult time getting out of their homes. Six of the Koon’s employees couldn’t even make it to work.

The Koon’s organization — as well as many other businesses — lost a great deal of money in advertising for President’s Day sales, because customers were not able to make it in.

Despite the weather, supermarkets did well. Many people stocked up before the storm, making up for revenue lost while it ran its course.

The volume of business was good for Todos Supermarkets, a local chain, said President Carlos A. Castro. Todos remained open during the storm, although for adjusted hours.

Gas stations have plenty of gas on hand, and are not running low as a result of the storm. A Prince William Parkway Exxon had a delivery Tuesday morning, said Milagro Molina, store clerk.

A Woodbridge Citgo hasn’t had any problems with gas, said Chad Nasr, store clerk. But, his store did lose a significant amount of money. Rent alone is $400 per day. And, Nasr estimated about $1,000 worth of business lost during each day of the storm.

The Prince William Parkway Loews has a sign on their front door that says: “Sorry we’re out. Firewood, heaters, snow shovels, snow blowers, rock salt, no propane heaters, snow blades, fire place screens.”

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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