Old man winter hit Pickens County hard last week when more than six inches of snow fell Sunday night into Monday morning ahead of frigid temperatures that kept precipitation frozen and paralyzed roads throughout the week.
The financial impact to local businesses was far-reaching, and some business owners say the trickle down effect of those losses could be felt for months.
Bojangles’ Owner Kristal Beaver said her business suffered serious financial losses last week, losing $3,000 Monday and $2,500 daily on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We opened all day Monday. We just felt a duty to serve those that were out working in it. We saw Amicalola Electric that day, EMTs, and police officers. Economically I think this storm is going to impact our community for the next 60 days,” she said.
Beaver said she’s showing a net loss of about $8,500 for the week compared to last January’s numbers. And she believes there will be a ripple effect across the local economy.
“January is naturally our slowest month of the year anyway since it follows the holidays,” she said. “I believe in my mind we’re going to see the ramifications of this beyond the next week or so, because so many people couldn’t make it in to work, and their paychecks are going to be affected.
“They, in turn, won’t be spending money locally if they didn’t earn it that week. It’s very unfortunate and very sad. And it following the holidays too. Of course, it’s sad for our city and county because our sales taxes will be affected. It’s just a horrible, horrible trickle down effect.”
Downtown Jasper was like a ghost town the Monday morning following the snowfall except for a few businesses open like Jasper Drugs. Owner Jack Dunn who made it in to his store to fill prescriptions and make deliveries for customers who could not get out.
“It took me two hours to deliver Monday afternoon,” Dunn said of his deliveries to three nursing homes and one assisted living center. “I would like to thank the county and the City of Jasper for helping me. Both of them made a sweep over to the nursing homes so we could get through.”
Dunn traveled 50 miles on Monday delivering needed medicines to his customers.
The storm left employees without a way to get to work and customers without the means to get out of their houses. Dunn said one of his employees become stranded in Ellijay and had to hitchhike home. Dunn was the only person to make it in to work that Monday, but the store opened Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m., closing early at 5 p.m. to ensure employees were able to make their way home before dark.
By the end of the week, traffic picked up and people were out shopping again.
“You can tell those people who have been in their homes a while. When they come in they’ve got a big smile on their face. It’s like they’ve been to Disney World or something,” Dunn said. “Earlier in the week traffic was extremely limited, but those people who did get out were in four wheel drives.”
Another downtown business owner, Sandy Gerhardt of Natural Market Place, also saw a negative impact from the storm.
“I wasn’t able to get into my store until Wednesday afternoon, and business then and Thursday was just a third of a bad day,” Gerhardt said. “Friday and Saturday were more of an average day – not great days though.”
Gerhardt saw just 10 customers walk through her door on Thursday, a big drop from a typical day. Even on Monday of this week, Gerhardt said she had yet to see a single person in her store that lives in Big Canoe or Bent Tree.
Gerhardt’s employee, who lives in Blairsville, was unable to get to work until the Friday following the snow.
“I can’t pay her when she’s not here and we don’t have any customers. This whole thing has a trickle down effect,” she said.
In addition to the lack of customers, Gerhardt said another big impact from the storm was not being able to get deliveries.
“I didn’t get a UPS delivery until Friday, so even if people had come in, I might not have had the product they needed. There were a lot of ramifications from this storm. Some people can work from home and, if so, it’s a fun snow day. It’s not so fun to me. I just take a deep breath. I’m grateful that I have the business that I have.”
Mark Roland of Roland Tire said he lost approximately $8,000 in gross sales in four days from Monday to Thursday, leaving him considering other ways to make money during a storm.
“That’s one thing I try to do. Any time there’s a downturn in any situation I always try to be innovative and look at other options and ways to diversify.”
Roland said the recent weather pattern had him thinking of purchasing a snow plow as a new business venture, a way to make money while helping people stay mobile when storms hit.
City of Jasper officials are accustomed to spending money on water projects and parks and streets but not on snowstorm cleanup. Last week, however, they abandoned some typical services in lieu of just that, spending $2,500 in materials to de-ice streets.
“The city street crew and water departments worked together to get the roads clear,” Mayor John Weaver said. “The city usually doesn’t spend money and time cleaning roads, because the storms are usually mild and usually in a day or two are clear, but this particular storm was different. We got on it immediately. We knew if we left the snow on the roads it would pack down and be impossible to pass on.”
City crews were downtown Tuesday afternoon using fire hydrants to wash snow off parking areas. Weaver said the snow was easier to wash off than scrape off, the water running off into storm drains before crews added salt so it wouldn’t re-freeze.
“The next day people on Main Street were ready for business,” Weaver said.
The city has another order of salt on the way just in case this isn’t the last winter weather Jasper sees this year.