Flooding hurts holiday sales
Tuesday, December 31, 2013 4:49 AM
OTTAWA -Although icy remnants of last week's flooded Blanchard River still crunch underfoot here and there, the Village of Ottawa was relatively dry and cold as the ball was prepared to drop for 2014. Most merchants who do business along the 100 and 200 blocks of the downtown area credit the dedicated work of the village to clear the streets affected by Saturday's soaking rains and the subsequent flooding on Monday and Tuesday.
"People in the village have been wonderful," said Mary Ann Cornelius of Paul's Ace Hardware at 110 E. Main St. "No complaints."However, despite the quick work of street crews, sales were more than a little disappointing for both Paul's and neighbor Ottawa Feed & Grain True Value, 156 S. Oak St.
Cornelius said that everything in the back showroom of the store was put up high to avoid any water that might enter the store. She was able to drive from her home on Fourth Street and park across from the store in the municipal parking lot.
"Business has been slow; not like it should be," she said.
Janis McKibben, manager of the True Value, said sales bottomed out for her store due to the flood.
"It made it 'zero' since it was hard for people to get in" she noted. "We did stay open, but had four customers on Monday and maybe a couple more on Tuesday. And it will happen again."
Barney Beckman, co-owner of Beckman's Jewelers, said one his big concerns was how to help his team make their way to work safely. He and Beckman's Jeweler's employee Connie Rampe came away from last week's flood with a good story, one of those that make a reporter wish they had been on scene with a camera.
On Dec. 23, safety officials allowed Beckman to drive to his store at 117 W. Main St. According to Beckman, most of his customers told him that the village fireman who were keeping an eye on the flooded streets allowed individuals to enter downtown as long as the traveller stated a specific destination.
That Monday morning, he left the store to meet Beckman's employee Connie Rampe and give her a ride in to the jewelry store. He told Rampe to park at Ottawa-Glandorf High School where he would meet her at the gym. On the drive back, the two met a fireman who wouldn't allow him to re-enter the downtown area.
"I said, 'Connie, I'm going to carry you in," smiled Beckman. "I had hip waders in my car. I picked her up and we made it across Grant and along Fourth Street."
"We had a good laugh when we got to the store," grinned Rampe.
Across the street at 150 W. Main St., sales person and beauty consultant Brooke Eiden said the Gift Emporium didn't seem to suffer much from the latest Blanchard River overflow.
"The flood didn't get in," she said. "We did very well."
Beckman reported that his store's sales were "interesting" right before Christmas, although does admit sales "might have been a little off." Overall, he said 2013 has been a good year.
Most Main Street business owners felt that their day-after-Christmas sales were good, but perhaps not good enough to make up for the lost boom their sales typically experience during the final days leading up to Dec. 25.
"If it had been Sunday, it wouldn't have been as big a deal," said Tom Gustwiller, owner of Gustwiller's Clothing Co. at 116 W. Main St. "But Monday and Tuesday, those days you just can't recoup."
Gustwiller, like many retail owners and operators, big and small, rely on internet sales to help make up the kind of foot traffic lost to the Dec. 23 crest of the Blanchard River in Ottawa. On Monday, five Gustwillers employees made it into the store to help ready and ship 100 packages of purchased store merchandise to waiting customers.
"We went to Columbus Grove's post office, because it was open, and met UPS at RK Industries on Locust Street," he said.
Gustwiller expressed appreciation for National Weather Service and U.S. Geological Survey gage station services available on the Internet. He and Jim Heringhaus, owner of Heringhaus Furniture, which is open at 214 E. Main St., just a block east of Gustwiller's, were able to determine the need to move items to higher store floors or, in the worst-case, evacuate altogether.
Cornelius relied on another form of technology to monitor the flood.
"We put a webcam up at the Oak Street entrance door so we wouldn't have to keep checking the water level, she said, noting that flood waters halted just half inch shy of the door frame.