Hurricane Sandy a boost for some local stores, a loss for others

  • Belletetes President and Chief Operating Officer, Jack Belletete, left, and Charlie Guptill, a senior hardware employee at the Jaffrey Belletetes location, have had to resupply the local store with generators, gas cans and flashlights, as Belletetes and other local stores experienced a boost in the sale of power-outage supplies last week due to Hurricane Sandy.

    Belletetes President and Chief Operating Officer, Jack Belletete, left, and Charlie Guptill, a senior hardware employee at the Jaffrey Belletetes location, have had to resupply the local store with generators, gas cans and flashlights, as Belletetes and other local stores experienced a boost in the sale of power-outage supplies last week due to Hurricane Sandy. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Jack Belletete, President of Belletetes, has restocked the Jaffrey store's supplies of generators and gas cans, since customers cleared out the supply last week preparing for the oncoming Hurricane Sandy.

    Jack Belletete, President of Belletetes, has restocked the Jaffrey store's supplies of generators and gas cans, since customers cleared out the supply last week preparing for the oncoming Hurricane Sandy. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Belletetes President and Chief Operating Officer, Jack Belletete, left, and Charlie Guptill, a senior hardware employee at the Jaffrey Belletetes location, have had to resupply the local store with generators, gas cans and flashlights, as Belletetes and other local stores experienced a boost in the sale of power-outage supplies last week due to Hurricane Sandy.
  • Jack Belletete, President of Belletetes, has restocked the Jaffrey store's supplies of generators and gas cans, since customers cleared out the supply last week preparing for the oncoming Hurricane Sandy.

As media began to warn New Hampshire residents about superstorm Hurricane Sandy’s approach last week, many decided not to be caught unprepared, and made for their local hardware and general stores to stock up on the essential items to get through a storm that they were warned could lead to long-term power outages.

Edmunds Hardware in Antrim always turns a profit when residents are preparing for a big storm and rush out to purchase last-minute supplies, said owner Rick Edmunds. The business didn’t get away without some frustrations of its own, though. It dealt with an out-of-commission phone line and its electronic cash registers were off-line on Tuesday.

“We’ve been experiencing some technical difficulties,” said Edmunds, “but overall, storms are good for business.”

Remembering the rush on power-outage essentials that resulted from the 2008 ice storm, Edmunds made sure to stock up on the items he knew customers would be looking for in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and residents didn’t disappoint. They showed up in droves for items such as batteries, flashlights, lamp oil, extension cords and gas cans over the weekend and on Monday. Edmunds said the store managed to keep almost all the essentials in stock, with the exception of D batteries.

Belletetes in Jaffrey did equally well, said President Jack Belletete in an interview in his Jaffrey store on Wednesday, as did all five other stores in the company’s chain, located in New Ipswich, Peterborough, Nashua, Ashland and Winchendon, Mass. That’s because when a storm the size of Sandy comes along, residents begin looking for generators to keep their homes up and running.

In a normal month, Belletetes will sell about five generators, and a handful of generator plugs. Sales of generators went through the roof on the weekend leading up to the storm, said Belletete, with his stores selling out of the 60 generators in stock, and an additional dozen since the storm ended sold to customers who have gone without power since the storm’s passing.

“It was a very busy weekend,” said Belletete. “We sold every generator we had.”

Along with generators, Belletete said, the store couldn’t keep up Saturday and Sunday with the demand for generator plugs and large, nine-volt flashlights.

Both Edmunds and Belletete noted that the ice storm of 2008 was still affecting the consciousness of the population, as more people began to prepare early. Preparation buying, they said, began the Wednesday before Sandy hit, when the media first began reporting on the storm.

“It’s not quite the panic that we had in 2008,” said Edmunds in an interview at his store Tuesday. “But it was on-line with what you’d see for people preparing for a hurricane. We definitely had more people in here on Monday than we normally would.”

In the aftermath of the storm, Edmunds said he’s still seeing customers coming in looking for the items you might expect for a family experiencing a power outage, as many of the surrounding towns still did not have power restored to 100 percent of customers by late Tuesday afternoon.

Neither Belletete nor Edmunds had seen many of customers coming in for repair supplies since the storm ended, they said.

Not everyone’s business benefitted from the storm, though.

The Hancock Market, for example, experienced an early run on some food items the weekend before the storm, said owner Nancy Adams in a phone interview from the Hancock Market on Thursday, but the storm knocked out the store’s power for nearly 24 hours, from 5 p.m. Monday night until 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Adams, not discouraged by the outages, borrowed a small generator in hopes of keeping her refrigeration units cold. Her husband spent the first night of the outage sleeping in the store, refilling the gas in the generator every two hours. By morning, it was clear that the store might be out of power for awhile. A larger generator was brought in to support the refrigeration units, but despite not having lights or being able to operate the cash register, Adams decided to open the store to customers anyway.

“We’re a retail store, it’s based on customer service, you need to be open when people need you,” said Adams. “Especially being a small town, you need to do everything you can to keep them coming back.”

And in small-town fashion, when people came in and only had credit cards, which she couldn’t take without electricity, she simply took down their information, and the residents came back that night or the following morning to pay her back, she said.

“That’s the benefit of living in small town, you can trust people,” Adams said. By Wednesday, everyone that owed the store had settled their accounts, she noted.

Generally, the day was slow, she said, and she wasn’t able to provide coffee or deli service, but even though the day was a financial loss, Adams said she would do it again.

“Even though it was dark and I had to handwrite everything like the old days, it was fun,” she said. “I lost a considerable amount of income, but I decided to cut our losses, and help some people out. It feels good to be a good neighbor.”

For some local general stores, such as the Dublin General Store and the Francestown Village Store, it was simply business as usual, according to their owners.

Although the Francestown Village Store lost their phone service, they never lost power, according to owner Jennifer Martel. For them, it was nearly a normal week. Dublin General Store also had power throughout the store, and had a regular week, with no increase or decrease in customers, said owner Michelle Freeman.

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