Storm aftermath is setback for some businesses, sweet spot for others

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE, LYDIA COUTR and AMP;#XC9; , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: June 24, 2013 - 11:07 PM

Xcel Energy still piecing power supply back together. And business in chain saws, ice and generators is brisk.

 

Restaurants and grocery stores that lost refrigeration in weekend power failures were recovering Monday after tossing out tons of edibles and enduring temporary shutdowns, plus the accompanying loss of business.

At Kowalski’s Uptown Market in Minneapolis, which went without power for about 24 hours Friday into Saturday, Max Maddaus described the food loss as “fairly substantial” although the supermarket put some goods in refrigerated trucks parked outside.

“As soon as we have even the remote thought that it may have been compromised in any regard, then that’s the time for us to make the decision that we’re not going to be able to sell it,” Maddaus said.

Kowalski’s, where business was brisk Monday evening, was one of about 610,000 Xcel Energy customers that had their electricity interrupted at some point after rain and high winds battered the Twin Cities starting Thursday night and into Saturday. As of 11 p.m. Monday, Xcel said, power had been restored to all but about 24,675 customers in the metro area.

Crews from more than a dozen states were working continuously to bring that number toward zero in what the utility has called an outage unlike any it has ever experienced. Xcel officials said they hope to have power fully restored by midday Wednesday.

Many restaurants across the Twin Cities were forced to shut down while operating full-bore Friday night when power went off, cutting the lights, refrigeration and electronic bill-paying.

Longfellow Grill in south Minneapolis closed from 9 p.m. Friday until about 9 a.m. Saturday. That cost an estimated $5,000 in lost business, staff time and food waste, said manager Sean Grasz. It could have been worse, he said, had he not been able to find some of the last dry ice available at the time from a local distributor.

“We were one of the lucky ones,” he said.

Liquor Lyle’s in Minneapolis was without power until Monday, and its staff was busy working to reopen Tuesday.

At the St. Louis Park Costco, all the store’s ice cream, cheese and deli products went into the trash during a 16-hour stretch Friday into Saturday until managers found a generator that could restore refrigeration, said assistant general manager Shawney McMillan.

At the Ridgedale mall in Minnetonka, the three major retail tenants — Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney — functioned throughout the stormy weather using generators as needed, but half the interior stores lost an entire day of business Saturday. They were open by Sunday.

Winners in the storm

While the weather took a toll on many businesses, others have experienced an upside.

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing for four days,” said Chris Cook, distribution center manager for Arctic Glacier Inc., which has seen an estimated 50 percent increase in its ice business as customers have struggled to keep frozen foods frozen and cool things cool without refrigeration.

“In this business, the faucet is either on or off,” said Cook. “Right now, it’s definitely on.”

Similarly, Kevin Rumpza, assistant manager at Reddy Rents in St. Louis Park, said his eight household generators have been spoken for continuously since Friday. Two of his six chain saws were again available Monday, but with power being restored across the region, demand was picking up for dehumidifiers, fans and other drying tools.

State Farm Insurance spokeswoman Ann Avery said storm claims activity from Minnesota has been “brisk”: 2,700 homeowner and 500 auto claims. Most homeowner and renters’ claims will cover lost food in addition to damages, she said, though commercial policies may be different.

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