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Making buyers happy



Published: Tue, February 18, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Eastwood Mall hasn't had to get heavy equipment to haul snow away -- yet.

VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT

Cindy Smith of Hartford wasn't happy about forking over $494 for a snow blower Monday afternoon.

It was the last of 25 sold Monday at the Home Depot in Howland.

Smith said she tried to start her 8-year-old blower -- even changing the spark plug -- but it just wouldn't start for her.

In the best interests of their customers, some area businesses keep their doors open no matter how high the snow piles up.

"Maybe they need a snow shovel. Maybe they want to buy a snow blower. Maybe they need water," said Ken Kollar, general manager of the Eastwood Mall complex.

He and his crew of snow-plowers do what they can to ensure businesses in the busy retail district open as usual. It takes 20 plow trucks about six hours to clear parking lots at the Eastwood Mall complex after an average snowfall, Kollar said, but unusually heavy snowfalls require more time and effort.

Workers began plowing parking lots around 2:30 a.m. even though the heavy snow had just begun falling. At 9 a.m., drivers were still working to scrape the lots clean.

"When you have acres and acres of asphalt, you can't wait until an hour before the stores open. But, you have to wait for the snow to get on the ground before you can plow it," Kollar said.

Then there is a problem with how much snowplow drivers can pile in parking lots. "As of yet, we have not had to haul snow. But if we get anymore, especially if it's like this, we'll have to think about it," he explained.

Where it's taken

Front loaders and backhoes are used to load the white stuff into dump trucks that transport it to areas, such as the Cafaro Field parking lot, that are rarely used in winter.

Mike Kolovich, manager of Champion True Value Hardware, said customers were trickling in early Monday, but once the roads had been cleared, more people filtered in. "They're looking for salt more than anything," he said.

Although the store has sold out of snow blowers, there were still plenty of salt, sleds and snow shovels available.

Andrews Shopping Center at Howland Corners fielded phone calls all morning from people looking for sleds and shovels, said Karen Bandy, a store employee. The store still has plenty, after weathering an initial rush on the items during the first snowstorm of the year, Bandy said.

"We are pretty well down on salt," she said. "We have very little left."

National City Bank normally closes on Presidents Day but decided this year to stay open to accommodate its customers, said Woody Steele, manager of National City's downtown Sharon, Pa., branch. Foot traffic was light Monday although the phones were busy and the drive-through window had customers.

Steele said the bank did a customer survey and found that people wanted the offices to be open more hours.

Becky Bentfeld took a break from shoveling snow and jokingly asked, "Where are the kids that used to do this for a few dollars?"

Bentfeld, a data processor for Young & amp; Merrill Agency Inc., on East State Street in Salem, was among several business people laboring Monday morning to make the sidewalks in the city's downtown commercial district passable.

Her labor wasn't appreciated by many. Foot traffic in the downtown was sparse for much of the day Monday.

GM line

At General Motors Lordstown assembly plant, workers pulled together to keep the line running and ensure a smooth transition between shifts even though some employees were late reporting for work because of the snow, said plant spokesman Tom Mock.

There was also some concern about getting parts, which are delivered in a just-in-time fashion for efficiency purposes. Many parts are shipped by truck, Mock said, and traffic on the Ohio Turnpike appeared to be moving smoothly.

Buses at Western Reserve Transit Authority got on the road about 90 minutes late Monday. "We could have started earlier but we didn't want to risk anybody getting hurt," said Jim Ferraro, executive director.

Ordinarily the buses would have begun running at 6:30 a.m., an hour later than most weekdays because of the Presidents Day holiday.

Snow piled up on side streets that had not yet been plowed made it impossible for buses to travel their regular routes, Ferraro said. "We're running the main roads only and advising riders to get to the main roads."

WRTA expected to serve some 3,000 riders Monday, typical for a holiday.

South Avenue Gas & amp; Food Mart also started doing business 90 minutes late on Monday. The gas station-convenience store is usually open 6:30 a.m. to midnight. Despite opening late, Nishan Siengh, owner, said he doesn't believe he lost much business -- sales were unusually slow all morning.

The snowstorm, however, did shutter some businesses, including eateries near Youngstown State University and in downtown Warren.

The Saratoga on Warren's East Market Street was one of only a few downtown restaurants open. Between the weather and the holiday, few downtown workers who normally frequent the restaurant were present Monday.

"We are open because we are supposed to be open," said Chris Economos, who works at the restaurant. Business, she added, "was very good, typical for a holiday. Nothing else is open."




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