Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hurricanes Dont Stop Florida Businesses

Three is not a charm when it comes to hurricanes.

Ask anyone doing business in Florida, where Hurricanes Charley and Frances scored direct hits on each coast within weeks of one another. Hurricane Ivan dodged the Keys Sept. 13 and headed for the Gulf Coast.

The tropical storms cut power and phone service. Evacuation orders caused crowded roads. Some truckers stayed out of Florida after news reports suggested a fuel shortage. Without power, Floridians reverted to a cash economy—no credit cards, no ATMs, no computerized front-end systems. ?It?s a little rough right now,? said Fred Eaton of Paradise Health and Nutrition in Palm Bay. ?I just got back to work today because the roof came off my house.?

In Punta Gorda, on the Gulf Coast, most of the 10 headquarters employees of EnzyMedica suffered serious damage to their homes, and several were homeless after Charley unexpectedly made landfall nearby on Aug. 13.

The company fled Punta Gorda and leased space in Venice, 30 miles north, said Chad McHugh, director of operations. Sketchy phone service persisted into September, with no voice mail and employees using cordless phones.

?Most food retailers attempted to reopen as quickly as they possibly could, even if they were still without power and could only offer dry goods,? said Greg Leonard, corporate vice president of communications and trade relations for distributor Tree of Life Inc., based in St. Augustine. Demand was especially high for canned goods, aseptically packaged beverages and candles.

?We were able to maintain good lines of communication with most of our customers following the storm, and we routed and dispatched our trucks to any store that we thought could receive their order,? Leonard said.

A week after Frances, with Ivan tracking through the Gulf of Mexico and power restored to many places, retailers on the states east coast began to restock their freezers and cold cases with perishables. Inbound deliveries were returning to normal amounts and schedules by mid-September, Leonard said. ?We?re working very closely with all of our key vendors to ensure that our inventories remain adequate.?

Scott Merson of The Produce Place in Melbourne chose not to wait, driving a truck across the state to pick up fruit and vegetables from Tampa. The windows of his store were covered with plywood, spray-painted ?Die Ivan Die.?

In Melbourne and Fort Lauderdale, two of Wild Oats? four Florida stores were closed for a full week after Frances, spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said. While the stores sustained only minor wind damage, most perishable goods had to be thrown out. ?What we could donate, we did,? she said.

Aubrey Organics in Tampa dodged both Charley and Frances, said Sharry Smith, director of media and design. While keeping a wary eye on Ivan, ?We?ve been very fortunate,? she said. ?We were not hit.?

At Garden of Life Inc. in West Palm Beach, no orders were taken for about three days, Chief Executive Officer Robert Craven said. But good disaster planning kept business disruptions to a minimum, because key computer systems, for one thing, were rerouted offsite to a plant in Missouri. ?Ivan was more scary to us than Frances,? he said. ?At one point last week, Ivan was headed right for us, and that was sobering.?

Craven and his wife took shelter from Frances at a local hospital, where their second daughter, Paige Elizabeth, was born as the hurricane raged.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 10/p. 22

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