NEITHER RAIN NOR SNOW . . .
MANY BUSINESSES STAY OPEN DESPITE WEATHER
By Monique Harrison
The blue-and-white sign in front of Betty’s Steak or Breakfast reads: “Open 24 Hours.”
And owner Betty Schulz said she takes that slogan seriously – ice or no ice.
“We’re not planning on closing,” Schulz said of her two restaurants, located on North Gloster and South Gloster. “I figure we are open in good weather, so we should be open in bad, when people really need us to be open because others aren’t. This is about serving the public – even if that’s only a few people.”
Betty’s Steak or Breakfast was one of several restaurants open Friday, despite warnings that travel wasn’t advised on Northeast Mississippi’s ice-slicked roads.
Most restaurant managers who did open for business said they were operating with skeleton crews. Most planned to work regular hours, unless the power went out.
“It’s pretty bad out there, but we thought we’d give it a try,” said Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar manager Jerry Clements.
Clements said getting people to work was tough.
“We’ve got about one-third of our normal staff here,” he said. “I’m not having a lot of luck. I just got off the phone with one (employee) that’s in a ditch now – trying to get here.”
Several restaurants and stores that were open Friday said they used a makeshift shuttle service to get people to and from work.
“The owner of our store decided he would be the one to go out and get people,” said Terrence Harris, general manager of Burger King, located on South Gloster.
Harris said only five of the 17 people who normally work on weekdays showed Friday.
Kentucky Fried Chicken manager Tony Lovern said closing wasn’t an option for the chain’s three Tupelo franchises.
“We have a habit of always being open,” said Lovern, who made the 30-mile trek from Amory to open the North Gloster restaurant. “People’ve got to eat. There are customers coming in from areas where there are power outages. They are looking for food, and we’re here to give it to them.”
Pizza a hot item
Pizza was in demand throughout the day.
“Right now, we’ve got cooks working on about 60 pickup pizzas,” said Vanelli’s Restaurant co-owner Bill Kapenekas. “There are people out there stranded without electricity … this is nothing new for us. We’re cooking so we can help the people that have to be out there – the people that take care of the streets and things. We’re all about service. That’s why we’re here – today or any other day.”
At Domino’s Pizza on South Gloster, a manager was coming in from West Point to help deliver.
“We’re taking the deliveries, and we’re going to try to get them out as soon as someone gets here,” store manager Ann Harris said at around noon Friday.
The South Gloster Street location of Pizza Hut opened at 1 p.m., but no delivery orders were taken. The chain’s two other Tupelo locations were closed. Little Caesar’s was apparently closed, with no one answering the phone there.
While none of Tupelo’s pizza places were delivering, other deliveries were made.
William Beichler of Tupelo’s Lance Cracker Co. spent his morning on the road.
“It’s been pretty bad within Tupelo,” Beichler said. “But it’s not the ice that’s the problem. It’s the people that don’t know how to drive on the ice – the people slipping and sliding all over the road. I’ve seen some crazy drivers out there today.”
Discount stores open
Kmart and both Wal-Mart locations were open, with the Wal-Mart on West Main closing at 5 p.m. instead of the normal 9 p.m. Bud’s Warehouse Outlet was also open. Aside from Kmart, the Mall at Barnes Crossing was closed.
Managers at Kmart and Wal-Mart said business was brisker than expected. Most shoppers ventured onto the ice-covered streets in search of nonperishable food, flashlights, batteries, gloves, ice scrapers and de-icing solutions.
And several parents went in desperate search of sleds.
“There’s something about this weather that makes everyone want to buy a sled,” a Wal-Mart manager said. “We don’t have any in stock, but we’re selling those boards people use on the back of ski boats like crazy. They serve the purpose.”
At Goody’s Family Clothing on North Gloster, about five employees reported to work, using the time to get a jump on upcoming inventory tasks.
“We’re open for business, but no one’s really here shopping,” a member of management said. “It’s a good chance for us to catch up. But basically, there’s been no real business.”
But several video rental stores did see some real business.
“Unless the power goes out, we’ll be here our regular hours,” said Blockbuster Video assistant manager Aaron Knox. “We’ve been remarkably busy, even though the weather’s bad.”
But not everyone was ready to agree that the weather was all that bad.
Akron, Ohio, resident Keven Hale said he didn’t see why everyone was so leery of driving.
“I left conditions worse than this,” said Hale, who was in Tupelo training employees at Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. “I went to work this morning, but the guys I was supposed to be training didn’t show. I’m not sure why.”