By Cindy M. Cranmer
More than a week after storms shut down the Rockford area with massive power outages, snowy and icy roads, and business closings and two weeks after a polar vortex, many businesses are still dealing with a far-reaching impact.
Some businesses that were able to stay open may have seen a spike in business as their restaurants tried to serve the community food or hotels were able to house utility workers or individuals seeking warmth from plummeting house temperatures as the power outages stuck around. Daycares got calls as parents sought alternatives for children who were home from school. Stores with storm supplies ranging from batteries to water to generators saw a spike in initial sales.
However, most local business owners, and The Rockford Squire spoke to owners and managers from numerous professions and far beyond the scope of those even in this article, felt an impact whether it was simply a matter of working different hours to accommodate rescheduled clients to lost wages for employees to decreased sales to a far-reaching impact. Some businesses wanted the community to know the impact, but did not necessarily want their specifics in the news as to how two weeks of increment weather could have a permanent impact on their business.
“From a couple of workers to a business having to consider closing, the impact can be greater than realized after the past two weeks. For a small business that can be devastating,” said Jenna Arcidiacono, Rockford resident and chef/owner of Amore Trattoria. “Just assume that small businesses could use extra business at this time. Help support them. If you can shop local and support these businesses that have had a rough couple of weeks. Two weeks is a lot of business loss for some small businesses so if can can help them in any way, all the local places can use an extra boost.”
Arcidiacono has seen an increase this past week with Valentine’s week traffic, but it is still hard for her servers who saw the decrease in traffic during a week of cold and bitter temperatures where individuals did not want to go out. She may have seen a decrease in sales, but expressed concern for her staff and the local community as a whole. “Even the servers, give them a little extra if you are out and about.”
Amore may have seen a decrease in business but was only actually closed on the Wednesday of the icy week and stayed open using the gas stoves to serve the customers who already had arrived. The staff used phones as lights, lit extra candles, and had the glowing ice cubes. “We flipped it to make it a fun situation,” she said.
“It was a very weird couple of weeks for us,” she said. “It was tough for staff. Nobody was going out and that made it slower and that was hard.”
The Rockford resident saw the best in people as well as the community and local businesses gave to others. “I saw a lot of local businesses helping out not only during the storms but the government shutdown as well,” Arcidiacono said.
Local business owners believe that the outpouring of community support for others in need should continue to their businesses.
Dan Uccello, co-owner of Flo’s in Rockford, Belmont, Greenville, and Grand Rapids with his brother, Davide, said that the Belmont location was closed the most frequently having three full days of being closed while Greenville remained open the whole time at least for partial days throughout the past two weeks of challenging winter weather.
“It was really cool that people could come and just hang out during the power outage,” Uccello said. The restaurant did not require any purchases but opened the restaurant to anyone who needed someplace warm to go.
The Belmont location was closed the most frequently and Uccello said most people had power by the time the restaurant regained electricity.
All the restaurants did have multiple days of closing early. “It made sense to get our people home safe and at a decent time,” he said.
“It was a tough decision with the weather to make the decision of whether to even open,” he said. The challenge was balancing the restaurant’s desire to take care of the community with safety concerns for staff who had to travel.
Uccello said that the restaurant not opening and the early closures impacted business by about 20 to 25 percent. However, he said another day when downtown Rockford lost power they were able to stay open.
“We had a line out the door for four straight hours,” Uccello said. “More than 50 percent of our staff called off.”
Uccello stated he was working along with his wife, Cassie, and Davide. “I feel bad for our staff if we have to close because a lot of them are living paycheck to paycheck.”
He said the restaurant tried to stay open running a small crew so individuals who wanted to work could still get shifts. “People were able to give up shifts to those who were more in need,” he said.
“We strive for the family atmosphere with staff too. That’s the culture I have always wanted in our restaurants,” Uccello said.
Uccello stated small businesses have been impacted by the closings and recommended shopping local to support the community. “If you can get out and still be safe definitely shop local,” he said.
He encouraged supporting local restaurants, boutique stores, gas stations, and other businesses. “I think every one of the businesses would appreciate it the community stepped up and supported local businesses that are struggling in this weather,” Uccello said. “We also have to look at the safety of our community members too. If you can safely make it out to support the local businesses though definitely it is something you should do.”