The winter aberration of slush and sleet that descended last week on Mobile with Jack London-style surrealism closed most businesses and, in general, proverbially put local commerce on ice for days. According to a recent report by Semoon Chang, director of the Gulf Coast Center for Impact Studies, the storm may wind up costing metro Mobile upwards of $600,000 for the midweek deep freeze.
Comparably unique to the chilling weather are local stories of coping. Many businesses in the area had an interesting take on how they dealt with conditions normally seen north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Lagniappe interviewed area companies in three different industries to give readers a peek into their perspective on the preternatural ice storm of 2014.
Food-Champs: “Because of the winter weather that affected our area Tuesday and Wednesday, Food-Champs sales on Monday were more than double average day’s sales,” said Marie Hartness, operations manager at locally owned Food-Champs.
“Tuesday, we closed around 4 o’clock because we wanted all of our employees to be able to get home safely. We planned on being closed Wednesday, but when a few members of management came to check on the store in the afternoon, there was an overwhelming amount of people in the parking lot and coming up to the store asking if we were open. We received innumerable phone calls as well. Because of this perceived need, we decided to open for a few hours (about 2:30 to 5:30) to try and help the community get the things they needed,” Hartness said.
“Being a local company, those decisions are easy to make as we do not have to wait on answers from a corporate office in another region. Checking out at the registers, customers informed us that other grocery stores in the area were closed. We were the only place they could find open within a safe driving distance. Many thanked us for being open as they walked through the doors,” Hartness said.
According to Hartness, sales lost because of being closed Tuesday night and most of Wednesday were made up by the high activity Monday. Thus, their bottom line averaged out in regards to profitably.
IET/Dish Network: “In our Dish Network division of IET, we install 365 days a year and have employees working every day, including holidays. Covering a three-state area (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana) the weather there was bad in advance of here,” said Bill Naylor, the company’s controller.
“On the positive side, new software that we have purchased allowed most Dish Network employees (in the home office) to work from home. Dispatch personnel were able to log in to work on scheduling the employees (technicians), and also the accounting and payroll departments were working on pay for the installers. I myself logged into my computer and handled emails and accounting issues for our commercial/industrial access control division,” Naylor said.
“The part of our business that was most affected was the commercial industrial security side. We requested that all company vehicles be kept off of the road. We had jobs that we could have worked in Monroeville and have an ongoing job in South Arkansas that we were not able to get to. The payroll for this entity will be down but then so will revenues. Again, I don’t think that we lost any jobs, but the revenues will certainly be delayed,” Naylor said.
H&H Chevron: “Truthfully, we never shut down during the storm,” said Harold Underwood, vice president of operations.
“It’s not a mystery that we make money during events such as the ice storm or other catastrophic events. We’re usually only among a handful of retail type businesses that keep the lights on during these conditions,” Underwood said.
“In all honesty, however, that’s not the driving factor for keeping our doors open in difficult situations. Our location is also helpful for the sheriff’s deputies, firemen, general emergency personal, etc. We happen to be one of the limited locations in the north part of the county where they can fuel up in order to respond and patrol. If they have to go south to their substation to fuel up, that takes them away from where they need to be. They also have nowhere to rest or even get a cup of coffee or something to eat,” he said.
“Then there’s the people who were legitimately stranded and needed momentary shelter, food, restrooms, etc. It’s feels good to be a part of the community in this way and people really appreciate the effort,” Underwood said.
Commercial real estate moves
A local investor purchased 28.49 acres of commercial property located at 5432 Dawes Lane Extension in Mobile for $335,000. David Cooper of Prudential Cooper and Company Inc. Commercial Division represented the buyer. Jay Roberds of NAI Mobile Commercial Real Estate Services worked for the seller.
Burton Property Group in Mobile is the developer for a Gander Mountain store opening in Pensacola this spring. BPG contracted with Stewart Perry, located in Birmingham, to assist in renovating the 42,900-square-foot former Sports Authority property for Gander Mountain. The store plans to hire 50 to 70 employees at open. Gander Mountain is based in St. Paul, Minn., and is one of the largest outdoor specialty retailers in the nation.
John Delchamps, realtor with Merrill P. Thomas Company Inc., worked for the seller of the Sawyer Furniture building located at 3767 Airport Blvd. A local investor picked up the property for $1,865,000. Marietta Urquart, realtor with Heggeman Realty, represented the purchaser.
Delchamps also represented the buyer of a 14,000-square-foot office building on 251 N. Joachim St., as well as a parking lot located at 204 N. Joachim St. for $1,700,000. Employee Fiduciary, a regional administrative services firm, acquired them. Jeremy Milling of Milling Real Estate worked for the owner, Jones Walker Law Firm.
USA hosting Commercial Real Estate Summit
The University of South Alabama’s Center for Real Estate and Economic Development (CREED) is hosting its annual “Commercial Real Estate Summit VII and Market Review” on March 26. This year the event will showcase speakers such as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank in New Orleans, a commercial investment strategist from BB&T and a prominent economist from New York.
Cutting edge commercial real estate news relevant to local, regional and national markets will be discussed. All local professionals affiliated with the industry are invited to attend. More information can be found at CREED’s website: http://creed.southalabama.edu/
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