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Business chilled to a halt when winter weather strikes

Few retailers or restaurants open during ice storm

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As a second round of wintry weather hit metro Augusta Wednesday, restaurant owners and retailers braced themselves for a chill in business.

SLIDESHOW: Winter Storm Augusta

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SLIDESHOW: Winter Storm in Evans

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Just two weeks after a winter storm dropped snow across the area, a wintry mixture of precipitation returned, forcing many local stores and restaurants to close their doors again as customers stayed home to avoid treacherous travel.

The Pizza Joint in Evans was among the businesses that shut down Wednesday due to the icy conditions, as it did in late January when the restaurant closed for a day as a result of the winter storm.

“The community, they don’t come out,” said restaurant manager Emily Newman. “It affects business majorly. The people that do come out are pretty much regulars that come in every night.”

On Tuesday, as forecasts increasingly predicted bad weather, employees also called in to inform Newman that they wouldn’t be making it in because they didn’t want to brave the storm or they had children out of school. By that night, Newman said business had already started to slow.

“We’ve had several people call in, but that can’t affect us if they don’t feel safe coming into work,” she said.

The Augusta Mall on Wrightsboro Road joined other retailers in closing Wednesday for the safety of shoppers and employees. The mall's general manager Andrew Wilke said he expected the mall to resume normal business hours Thursday.

Southern Greenscape owner Michael McGowan said wintry weather exacerbates an already lethargic season for the landscaping industry.

“This time of year is slow any way,” he said. “We don’t need anything else to make it slower.”

McGowan, who maintains about 45 residential lawns across the region, said the snowfall from January stopped his work for two days and backed up his schedule for about a week. With just a couple of weeks left before homeowners begin perfecting their yards for Masters Week, McGowan said it’s important that he not fall too far behind on work.

On the other hand, some businesses, like tow truck companies, plumbers and home improvement stores, see customer activity warm when the temperatures drop.

At the Home Depot in Martinez, which opened on-time at 6 a.m. Wednesday, the store saw an increase in weather-related purchases, like flashlights, firewood, salt and generators, said manager Alan Green.

Customers began flocking into the Bobby Jones Expressway store on Monday, he said.

“Some people I think were caught off guard last time,” Green said of the storm two weeks ago. “It’s kind of made them a little more apprehensive this time.”

For McGowan’s landscape company, there is a plus side to Mother Nature’s wintry wrath.

As tree limbs fall under the weight of ice and other yard messes occur, McGowan said he ends up with more business after the weather passes. He also likened it to a mini-vacation.

“It causes a lot more damage, which in turn gives us more work,” McGowan said. “Just while it goes on, it slows us down to a halt.”


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