Capital Region

Supermarkets dug in, stayed open, dug out

Actual impact of each storm is harder to predict
A Market 32 in January.
A Market 32 in January.

Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County

Not too many people ventured out during Tuesday’s snowstorm, but those who did were able to buy groceries — at least for part of the day.

Area supermarkets opened up for business Tuesday morning, and some were able to stay open all day, though most shoppers did the easy or smart thing by getting their storm supplies on Monday.

“​Prior to the storm, our stores were extraordinarily busy,” said Eric Blom, spokesman for Maine-based Hannaford. “People try and beat the weather.”

All of Hannaford’s supermarkets — in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York — were in the storm’s path, but the company tried to keep them all open.

The reason was not so much revenue, because there isn’t much to be had in the middle of a snowstorm, but as a public service, Blom said. Some of the shoppers coming through the doors had to be out in the storm, including snowplow drivers, utility crews and public safety personnel. Others needed prescriptions filled.

Schenectady-based Price Chopper and Market 32 supermarkets saw the same shopper surge Monday and lull Tuesday, said spokeswoman Mona Golub.

“We do the best we can to remain open for our customers,” she said, but 32 supermarkets had to close for some portion of Tuesday for various reasons, including travel bans in the surrounding communities.

The company does not require its employees to travel to work during unsafe conditions, Golub said, so some were absent. But enough were able to make it in that each store could open with at least a skeleton crew.

Preparing for a big snowstorm was not a problem, said Golub — it’s something the company has done dozens of times in its 85 years. There was enough advance notice for this one to allow everything to be in place for the Monday rush: water, batteries, premade meals, bread, deli meats and cheeses, and enough people to stock it and ring it all up.

The actual impact of each storm is harder to predict, though.

“Delivery to our stores was nearly halted,” Golub said. “That’s going to have a ripple effect for a number of days.”

Things were still getting back to normal Wednesday.

“Many people are still holed up and haven’t dug their cars out,” Golub said.

Both Gabriel’s Supermarkets saw the same shopper traffic as their larger competitors: A swarm on Monday, trailing off Tuesday, rebounding Wednesday.

“Monday was like a holiday: eggs, milk, bread,” said Rudy Gabriele Jr.

The overall business impact of the storm wasn’t too bad, he added.

“We picked up Monday what we lost Tuesday,” he said.

Store managers shut down the Rotterdam Gabriel’s at 1 p.m., so the employees could make it home while roads were still passable. The other Gabriel’s — which is in the walkable village of Scotia and gets a lot more shoppers arriving on foot than the Rotterdam store — saw shoppers continue to walk in as the snow got deeper on the roads outside. Even as traffic diminished in Rotterdam, shoppers kept coming to the Scotia store. 

So that location was kept open longer. But it closed at 3 p.m., again so the employees could get home safely.

When the sun rose Wednesday on 4-foot snowbanks, people took their time heading to Gabriel’s.

“This morning was slow, but it’s starting to pick up now,” Gabriele said Wednesday afternoon.

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