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Isaac blows in customers for area businesses

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Entergy crew members Mark Jones, left, and Jimmy Reid, right, take a break from Hurricane Isaac power line repairs Thursday afternoon to grab lunch at Shoney’s, which remained open during the storm.

NATCHEZ — Tropical Storm Isaac may have brought damage and inconvenience for some, but the storm was good business for others.

Traffic at local gas stations, grocery stores and hardware stores started picking up as early as Sunday and remained steady all week long.

At least one gas station sold so much fuel Monday that it’s own tanks were empty Tuesday morning. Other businesses simply saw an increase in residents stocking up on the essentials.

Stine Lumber Company managers started preparing last week for Isaac. Assistant Manager Dora Emfinger said their home office in Sulfur, La., was sending in extra inventory as early as last Thursday.

“Our home office was great. They sent in extra merchandise and brought some in from other stores,” Emfinger said. “They had us prepared.”

Stine Lumber has had a steady influx of merchandise and Emfinger said it has paid off.

“We’ve had an overall pickup in business,” she said. “We did run out of batteries at one point, but we had a truck come in full of batteries and other needed items.”

Items such as tarps, flashlights, batteries, generators, lantern oil and kerosene were at the top of the list for most people, Emfinger said.

“We had employees stay over to keep the store up and opened early,” Emfinger said. “We had people at the doors at 6:30 in (Wednesday) morning coming in to get relief supplies.

“We have supplies constantly rolling in and all have pulled together has a team to get the items out for customers.”

Shoney’s General Manager Shakena Hill said the restaurant was able to order extra inventory before the storm but, supply trucks are coming slower now and the increase of business is taking its toll on supplies.

“We are seeing a 4 to 5 percent increase in sales,” Hill said. “Our trucks originally come from south Louisiana, but now they are having to come from farther away.”

Hill said they were seeing customers from as far as New Orleans stopping in to escape the storm.

“We seen a lot of workers come in, but we also have see a bunch from south Louisiana like New Orleans and Baton Rouge,” Hill said.