Some Toledo businesses see boon in frigid weather

Firms help those on job during storm

1/6/2014
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Bambino’s Pizza co-owner Hassan Awada, left, and manager Tynan Rubin field two phone lines Monday to take pizza orders from customers who didn’t want to venture out into the cold for food.
Bambino’s Pizza co-owner Hassan Awada, left, and manager Tynan Rubin field two phone lines Monday to take pizza orders from customers who didn’t want to venture out into the cold for food.

Heavy snowfall, chilling winds, and warnings from authorities to stay off the road forced most Toledo-area businesses to close early Sunday evening, but a handful of stores stayed open to serve those who found themselves out in the storm.

Other businesses spent Monday trying to catch up from the fallout of the extreme winter blast.

All of Kroger’s Toledo-area stores kept regular hours Sunday and Monday, said company spokesman Jackie Siekmann. “Our ultimate goal is to never close, because we feel we are providing a valuable resource to the community. Especially our pharmacies. We have a lot of customers who rely on that medication,” she said.

Ms. Siekmann said some employees had been able to walk to work, while others stayed to work overtime shifts. Even so, the stores were operating with minimal staff Monday.

Ms. Siekmann said the stores hadn’t been all that busy during Lucas County’s Level 3 snow emergency, which was in effect from 5:30 p.m. Sunday until 2 p.m. Monday.

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That advisory, which restricts travel to emergency and other essential personnel, also kept Kroger from restocking its stores. Ms. Siekmann said early Monday afternoon that trucks were waiting at the state line for Lucas County’s advisory to be lifted so they could come into Ohio.

“We’re working around the clock to try to get the product in the store,” she said. “The bottom line is we’re asking our customers to be patient. Shelves will be spotty the next few days.”

The Cincinnati-based grocer wasn’t the only business to stay open. Bambino’s Pizza & Subs on Monroe Street was one of the few that glowed with an “open” sign Sunday night.

“Being a small business, we have to make money where we can,”said Jeff Awada, who co-owns the business with his father, Hassan.

Bambino’s Pizza employee Mike Broadbent battles the cold to deliver a pizza to a customer Monday. Deliveries were restricted to the immediate Toledo area.
Bambino’s Pizza employee Mike Broadbent battles the cold to deliver a pizza to a customer Monday. Deliveries were restricted to the immediate Toledo area.

Bambino’s kept regular hours, though Mr. Awada said he restricted delivery to the immediate area. He also delivered the orders himself so his employees didn’t have to drive during the Level 3 advisory.

Non-essential drivers can be ticketed and even arrested during a Level 3 snow emergency, but Mr. Awada said he wasn’t concerned. And staying open paid off, he said Monday.

“We’ve been pretty busy because there’s not too many places that were open,” he said. “Mostly anybody that came in [drove] a four-by-four.”

Toledo’s 7-Eleven stores also kept their promise of staying open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sadeq Mehedi, manager of the 7-Eleven on West Bancroft Street, said a couple employees called off but the store was able to stay open.

“Actually there were a lot of people around until 1 o’clock [a.m.],” Mr. Mehedi said. “After that it slowed down a little bit. Our location is by the university so I have a lot of students that came in.”

Also stopping in: police officers who were out working in the storm.

“I had a lot of them come here because they had nowhere [else] to go. It was good for them because it was so cold. Most of the neighborhood, they have nowhere to go. Most of the supermarkets were closed. Fast food chains were closed,” he said.

Another of Toledo’s 24-7-365 venues did close, however. For the first time since opening its doors to the public on May 29, 2012, the Hollywood Casino Toledo closed.

“When it’s a Level 3 [snow emergency], we don’t want anybody out driving in unsafe conditions,” said casino spokesman John McNamara. “We try to remain open as much as possible but when the safety of our team members and guests is at risk it’s not really worth it.”

The casino closed at 4:30 p.m. Sunday to give people time to get home ahead of the declaration. The casino reopened Monday afternoon.

As road conditions improved Monday allowing more people to get out, temperatures were also falling, which created other problems.

One of the biggest is frozen pipes.

“It’s never-ending,” said master plumber Josh Barfield. “This is probably the most frozen water lines and broken water lines that I can remember, and I’ve been at it for 20-plus years. I’ve never had this many frozen houses.”

Mr. Barfield, owner of Ace Plumbing in Toledo, had 22 calls on Sunday for frozen pipes. Monday he bought 500 feet of waterline, which he expected to go through in the next couple of days.

Most often, pipes freeze in the kitchen because those lines are among the most exposed. Having a window to look out while doing dishes is nice, but it also means the plumbing is near an outside wall.

Mr. Barfield said one thing people can do during extreme cold is open cabinet doors below the sink to let a little more warm air circulate against the pipes. People should not use any type of space heater, because that could spark a fire.

He also said leaving a faucet running overnight — with a stream about half the size of a pinky finger — can help prevent pipes from freezing.

When it comes to furnaces, there’s not a whole lot people can do other than make sure they have a clean filter, said Tom Fry, president of Fry Heating and Air Conditioning of Toledo.

His company has been busy trying to get furnaces back up and running as Toledo heads for possible record-low temperatures.

He said the company got several calls in the wee hours of Monday morning and stayed busy all day.

“We’re going to be well into the night, I’m sure,” he said.

Typically furnaces fail during the coldest of days because they’re running longer and harder than normal. And based on what Columbia Gas of Ohio anticipates, its customers are going to burn more gas today than they ever have in a single day.

Columbia Gas said it moved the fifth-highest amount of gas in its history through its Ohio system Monday: 2.3 billion cubic feet. Normal usage on Jan. 6 is 1.3 billion cubic feet.

The highest amount ever moved was 2.5 billion cubic feet on Jan. 18, 1994. The utility expects to approach or break that 1994 record today.

Cold weather can also be bad for the family car.

April Cochran, a spokesman for AAA Northwest Ohio, said the auto club spent Sunday night and early Monday responding to people who had slid off the road or got hung up in snowdrifts. As of 2:30 p.m. AAA had received more than 200 calls for service, she said.

Once the Level 3 advisory was lifted, Ms. Cochran said AAA’s service vehicles began responding to people at home whose cars wouldn’t start because of dead batteries.

“It really starts to pick up once we get below the freezing point, but anything in the single digits or below it really becomes a major part of our daily operations and what we have to deal with,” she said.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.