From grocers to tree removal services to insurance agencies, Prince George's businesses struggled to manage customer demand, as Friday night's devastating thunderstorms left millions without electricity amid soaring daytime temperatures.
“We’re trying to work around the clock to keep stores well-stocked,” Jamie Miller, spokesman for Giant Food in Landover, said Monday. “We’re without electricity at the headquarters, but we’re operating on generator power. We have our entire support staff here to ensure stores are getting product. It’s all hands on deck.”
Giant’s 173 stores were all operating Monday, with electricity either from the grid or their own generators, Miller said. Demand for key products such as ice and bottled water remained high, but Giant was continually stocking up, he said.
“There’s some limits on the perishable items in the stores without power, but we’re running at normal hours,” said Michael Siemienas, spokesman for SuperValu, parent of Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, whose headquarters are in Lanham. Shoppers has 39 stores in Maryland.
He added that Shoppers has an advantage over some other regional grocers in that SuperValu also supplies its grocers, so there was less concern about supplier problems.
Two of Maryland’s 66 Safeway stores were closed as of Monday afternoon, with six stores expecting to receive extra ice deliveries, according to a news release from the company, which has its eastern headquarters in Lanham.
Wegmans in Glenarden's Woodmore Towne Centre also lost electricity Friday night and used generator power until Saturday, said spokeswoman Jo Natalie.
All of Wegmans' five Maryland stores have been "extremely busy," although by Monday, fewer customers were purchasing prepared food and avoiding perishables than during the weekend, Natalie said.
"We're making whatever adjustments we need to make," Natalie said, as the Rochester, N.Y., chain’s stores already were well-staffed because of the Fourth of July weekend.
At Revere Bank in Laurel, outages also posed problems, interfering with online banking and ATM access at two of the bank’s three locations, said Kenneth Cook, president of Revere. The outages lasted through Saturday, with everything operating as usual by mid-Sunday, he said.
“As far as I know, we received no customer complaints,” Cook said.
Companies that make a living off helping people in emergencies also weathered the storm’s aftermath in their own way.
Griffith Energy, a New York fuel supplier with offices in Maryland, made fuel deliveries to various Pepco service vehicles, as they sought to bring customers back online, said Peter Horrigan, president of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association. He said many of his members were focusing on fueling generators at hospitals and schools.
"It was the same as any other emergency situation," Horrigan said, adding that some gas stations ran out of electricity needed to run their pumps, while others ran out of a particular type of fuel.
“It’s crazy; it’s like working for Pepco,” said Kathy McDermott, an office manager at Ed’s Tree Service in Beltsville. McDermott returned early from her Florida vacation to help manage calls for the 15-employee business.
“There’s a lot of trees on houses, trees in houses, and it’s widespread,” she said Monday. “We work until we’re done with the day.”
Several businesses throughout the region said they were too busy to take reporter calls.
Insurance agencies also were taking more calls than usual.
Employee resources are being moved around to best accommodate clients, said David W. Kushner, provincial agent for a Nationwide agency in Mount Rainier. He said the increase in call volume has been gradual, but he anticipates more as people get their power restored and can call.
For some of the county’s major employers, the storm’s impact was minimal.
“We’re one of the lucky ones,” spokesman Frank Strong said of 600-employee Vocus in Beltsville. He said none of the social marketing company’s control centers experienced any problems from the storm and the parking lot was full Monday.
He joked that Vocus’ working air conditioning and gym showers also might have been an incentive for workers.