The same set of snowstorms that have left federal government offices closed since the afternoon of Feb. 5 have caused quite a few headaches for retailers, foodservice companies and produce suppliers in the mid-Atlantic region.

Blizzard cuts power at stores, makes things difficult

Courtesy Pete Pappas & Sons Inc.

Produce shipments en route to Pete Pappas & Sons in Washington, D.C. had some trouble getting shipments through the high snow. At one point on Feb. 8, three tracktor-trailers were stuck on the road right outside the company's building.

“We’re experiencing a blizzard right now,” said Aris Pappas, vice president of Pete Pappas & Sons Inc., Washington, D.C. “In D.C. the bus and metro systems are down. Our workforce has been cut 90%.”

The company was operational Feb. 10 but was not delivering product. Many produce companies in the region were completely shut down, Pappas, said.

“We had three tractor-trailers stuck in our block on Monday with one tiny lane plowed, and no way to get around,” Pappas said.

Pappas said the company saw a spike in orders around Feb. 3 as retailers tried to stock up for customers who would also be stocking up.

“Customers will want to triple their orders, and they’ll start calling around to see who has what,” Pappas said. “We’ve seen a spike and then a wallop and then a spike again.”

Dan Donovan, spokesman for Giant Eagle Stores, Pittsburgh, said people were stocking up on more than just essentials the first week of February, likely in anticipation for being snowed in over the Super Bowl.

“Our stores with the biggest impact have been in western Pennsylvania,” Donovan said Feb. 10. “There was a big snow Friday and Saturday, then a break, and then it really kicked up again yesterday.”

Although stores had a couple days to recover, especially stores that had lost power, the company has been in the constant process of making sure it could get stores stocked as much as possible, he said.

“From our DCs to our stores, the situation varieties because of the local store’s situation,” he said. “Some trucks make it, some have been delayed, but a majority are getting there.”

For stores that experienced extended power loss, perishable product did have to be thrown out, he said. Giant Eagle operates 222 stores in the Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas, about 100 of which are in western Pennsylvania.

Foodservice impact

On the foodservice side, restaurants in the region are just hoping the storm moves on up the coast Feb. 10 like it’s supposed to and they can get some business for Valentine’s Day weekend.

Although area schools are closed, colleges and universities in the area have been scrambling to feed their on-campus students.

George Mason University outside Washington, D.C. was able to feed more than 2,400 people at its Southside dining facility by ordering extra, easy-to-prepare food and using paper plates to conserve power. The university also housed some of its kitchen workers at a local hotel and rented a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get them to work.

Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexo manages the university’s dining services.

Washington, D.C.’s blizzard warning was set to expire at 10 p.m. Feb. 10. Most of the area got between 2 and 3 feet of snow Feb. 5-7 and an additional foot Feb. 9-10, according to media reports.