Businesses Struggle Through Power Outages

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The lights are coming back on at businesses across the Lansing area after a winter ice storm took away electricity beginning Sunday morning in many places.

"Right now it's a real sense of relief we're back in business," said Denny Grinold, owner of Denny's Auto Diagnosis. "It's a definite loss of business, but we're just happy to be back and operating and hopefully we'll see a better future here in the next few days."

The auto shop was without power until late Thursday morning. To make due, Grinold said he used generators, kerosene heaters and even a Chevy Tahoe to keep things going. The Tahoe helped power company computers so Grinold could do payroll before Christmas. Phone calls were transferred to his daughter's cell phone and piled up for days.

"Customers wanted to know when they could get in," Grinold said. "You had no idea when you could get them in."

Grinold says he's just looking forward to getting back to normalcy and feels fortunate the outage came during a typically slow week.

The same can't be said at the business right next door, Gorman's Food Market. The supermarket estimates it lost $70,000 when it was closed in the days before Christmas. Much of those dollars come from 200 meat counter orders that couldn't be filled.

The storm also left a dent at Smith Floral and Greenhouses, which also sees a lot of business around Christmastime.

"I think people were more concerned with what was going on in their homes than last minute shopping," said co-owner Karen Smith. "Normally we have a pretty good volume of people the two days leading up to Christmas and that didn't happen this year."

Also frustrating for Smith: finding the recipients of floral gifts once they've left their powerless homes.

In her greenhouse, Smith moved hundreds of poinsettias after finding power at only half blast. Now, her husband makes gas runs every six hours to fuel a generator.

"Anytime you have a loss of power which we've experienced before, you're very concerned about your plants," she said. "It's Michigan. It happens. Are we disappointed? Absolutely. Are we glad that everybody we know is safe? Yes."

The owner of Hungry Howie's Pizza agreed he was more concerned for his customers than his business, but he says business has been good since the storm -- despite losing power on four of nine Lansing location.

"When these stores are closed, those stores obviously get busier," said co-owner Kevin Dittrich, adding some locations even stayed open late during the storms to meet demand.

Keeping ingredients fresh was not an issue, Dittrich said, because they can be shared between chains.

"We make or dough daily so that if the power does go down, we go ahead and get to throw this out and then we mix it up again," he said. "If you're talking about cheeses and sauces and that stuff. Anything that comes in a box that can be transferred will be transferred to another location in the walk-in coolers."

Plus the store has insurance that allows it to close its business if a power outage will be extensive.

"If it happens for over three hours, we'll just call it for the day," said Dittrich, "and say that that store will be closed and we'll pick it up the next day if possible when the power resumes."

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