Feast and famine for area businesses

Mother Nature threw a sucker punch at Central Kentucky businesses already dealing with recession, but this week's ice storm also created new customers for other businesses.

Many businesses, like Jett & Hall men's clothing and family shoe store on Main Street in Richmond, were forced to close.

"We had to close because we had no power Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. It was that way all up and down Main Street," said owner David Jett. The store opened as usual Friday morning, but business was slow. Large sections of Richmond were still without power. One customer had stopped in by 11:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, at the Hub Coffee House and Cafe in Danville, employees have worked fast and furiously, serving customers hot coffee and food since the storm hit Boyle County, causing widespread power outages.

"We have four coffee makers going all the time, every day. I feel like every time I turn around I have to make a fresh pot," said Natalie Dickerson, head barista at the cafe at 236 West Main Street.

The Hub, next door to the Ephraim McDowell Surgery Center, only lost power for 24 hours. "I'm not sure about the electric grid in the city, but they had to get the surgery center up and running, and I think that's why we've had power," Dickerson said.

The minute the Hub opened its doors at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, ice storm refugees began streaming in.

"People were very happy to get a hot cup of coffee and a hot breakfast," she said.

The Hub has lived up to its name — becoming a hub of activity while most stores on Main Street still lacked power on Friday. Necie Williams took her laptop and two children to the Hub and has conducted her event planning business from there the past two days because it's the only place in town she can get a wireless connection. Electricity is still off at her house.

"It's taken 30 minutes to get connected because everybody's using it," Williams said of the wireless signal.

After two days of being cooped up, many folks were itching to get out of the house. The Capitol Cellars Wine and Spirits in downtown Frankfort that never lost power was packed on Thursday night.

"Everybody was talking about cabin fever," said chef Loria Eastman-Tilden. "A lot didn't have power at home and they came over to spend the evening with us, just to have some place to go."

But for scores of business owners like Bruce Pieratt, owner of Pieratt's appliance stores, instead of selling televisions during Super Bowl week, business pretty much stopped for two-and-half days.

Pieratt said his major concern became safety of his service technicians and delivery people on Tuesday as roads and sidewalks became glazed with ice. "I don't want them getting hurt. We've moderated their schedules so they're not trying to do as much until things thaw."

Customers waiting for deliveries or repairs have been cooperative, he added. "I don't think we've had anybody who didn't understand."

Fayette Mall closed early Tuesday and foot traffic was thin on Friday, but there were people in the food court, and parents brought children to the indoor play area to work off excess energy. "Some of the those people may still be without electricity. Others are happy to get out of the house," said Melissa Blackburn, mall marketing director.

The disruption that most concerns Diana Stewart, owner of Fit-Time for Women in Frankfort, is the impact of a disruption in their exercise schedule on new members.

"It takes eight weeks to form a habit. New members are not into a routine yet," she said. "I hope the interruption doesn't lead them astray, and they get back on schedule."

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