Local stores try to accommodate needs during rolling blackouts
WORTHINGTON — There was a frenzy on generators Friday morning at the Runnings store in Worthington, with a shipment of 15 — in a variety of sizes — selling out within 10 or 15 minutes, according to store manager John Aanenson.
The farm and home store sold out of generators Thursday, but began taking names and phone numbers of customers who came in looking for the alternative-power suppliers to run their sump pumps, appliances, lights and farm operations.
By the time the store opened Friday, Runnings had a line of people waiting.
“We had a lottery system for (the generators) and handed out numbers,” Aanenson said. “Now, we’re writing down names and numbers for a waiting list. We’re supposed to get another shipment in, but we don’t know how soon that’s going to be and we don’t know what size generators are coming.”
Runnings stores in 10 Midwest communities are trying to serve customers dealing with power outages, Aanenson said. While the warehouse had a good supply of generators, getting the shipments in takes time.
The store had also seen a run on sump pumps and battery-powered sump pumps, and while it still had some left Friday morning, Aanenson said another shipment was slated to arrive Friday afternoon.
“We’re waiting on two trucks of freight,” he added.
Throughout the rolling power outages in Worthington, the store was staying open, providing flashlights and lanterns to customers who come through the door during the hours that power is out.
“We lead people around the store to find what they need and bring them to the front,” Aanenson said. That’s the case for many customers, as the new store has only been open for a couple of months.
Checkout has been quite an experience as well, as store associates were handwriting everyone’s purchases, collecting payment and then keying the information into their tills when power returned.
“It’s very cumbersome,” Aanenson said. “We’ve got to be here for our customers.”
At Schwalbach Ace Hardware in Worthington, generators were also sold out Thursday, but it can’t get another shipment in until Tuesday. By then, operations manager Deb Steinle said it may be too late to meet local need.
“Hopefully, everybody will be up and running by then,” she said.
Ace opted to open every other hour, when power is supplied to the store and the lights are on. When it gets to be about 10 minutes before the top of the hour, shoppers were alerted to get their purchases to the front so they can check out before the power goes out again.
“We can’t have customers walking around in the dark,” Steinle said.
Customers were coming in for power cords and sump pump supplies, and a lot of flashlights and batteries were sold Thursday, she added.
While it may be a challenge for people to find equipment, there’s no worry about finding food.
The Worthington Hy-Vee was “100 percent open for business,” said store manager Dewayne McIntyre Friday morning. It was able to get generators to power up the store.
That wasn’t the case at Fareway Food Store in Worthington, which was closed all day Thursday and remained closed Friday morning. Store manager Tim Stebbens said workers were scheduled throughout the day and night to turn compressors on and off as they dealt with the rolling blackouts. Stebbens said the store would not reopen until power is completely restored, and he had no idea when that might be.
At Walmart, spokesperson Payton McCormick said the store had closed intermittently while the power was out, but as the power comes back on, it’s business as usual. Generators are being used to keep the refrigerated and frozen foods at proper temperatures. The local store is keeping customers informed of power supply on its Facebook page, McCormick added.
When the store is operational, McCormick said customers are coming in for general storm supplies and food.
Perkins was one of the few restaurants open in Worthington Thursday, and business proved it, according to Manager Sue Schweigert.
“We were way more busy than I thought we would be,” she said Friday morning.
The restaurant was working around the rolling blackouts, getting customers seated, orders filled and payment made within the two hours it had power, and then doing cleaning and preparation during the hour it was without power.
Perkins was operating on a full menu, with limited bakery items available due to the baking time required. Schweigert said it was also not able to serve waffles or chicken pot pies.
“We never close, and we won’t close either,” Schweigert said Friday. “I think some of the other businesses are functioning today, so that eases up on us.”