published Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Cold snap thaws consumers' wallets in Chattanooga area

Freddie Uloa unloads a storage unit door during construction of Downtown Self Storage along Broad Street on Monday.
Freddie Uloa unloads a storage unit door during construction of Downtown Self Storage along Broad Street on Monday.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

Some retailers cashed in on the cold-weather furor this weekend as shoppers rushed to stock up on winter supplies before today's bone-chilling low temperatures -- but others were left out in the cold.

Plumbers answered call after call for frozen pipes Monday, and some hardware stores nearly sold out of heaters, faucet covers, insulation, sleds, fuel and ice-melting salt. But area car washes expect to lose two days of business during the cold snap.

Sales were up across the region at Ace Hardware stores, said marketing manager John Router.

"If you just compare this to a normal January weekend without a winter weather event, we were close to twice as busy," he said. "A lot of folks were trying to get prepped."

At Ace Hardware of East Brainerd, employee Chris Gadd said the weekend rush was slowing by Monday, even as temperatures crept lower.

"We basically sold all of our stuff and we're trying to get it restocked," he said. "From looking at the numbers, they were really, way busier than normal [on Sunday]. Supplies are the kind of thing you try to get before it actually happens."

At Jimmy Payne's Coast to Coast in Calhoun, Ga., salesman Terry Grant said the store stayed open late on Saturday because so many customers were pouring in.

"People just kept coming in to get heaters and sleds," he said. "Those are the biggest sellers right now."

Temperatures were expected to drop overnight anywhere from zero to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in Chattanooga, and today's highs will only be in the 20s, according to the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Morristown, Tenn. The office warned area residents to limit outdoor exposure, keep an eye on houshold plumbing and be careful not to start a fire with a faulty heater.

And, apparently, residents took that warning to heart, Grant said.

"I hate it for everybody, but it's been good for business," he said.

At Action Plumbing in Chattanooga, supervisor James Chandler said he was answering about 20 or 30 percent more calls than normal, with several frozen and busted pipes.

"It's been a long time since it's been like this," he said. "I guess it was back when we had that last blizzard in '93. Usually this is our slow season."

But there's at least one group of business owners who aren't happy with the region's deep freeze: car wash owners. Chuck Grant, owner of East Ridge Car Wash, closed up shop Monday and today and told his 14 employees to stay home.

"It's the first time in 15 years we've closed because of the temperature," Grant said. "But it's dangerous for the employees to work on the ice so we decided we wouldn't gamble that."

Surf's Up Car Wash owner Jon Woodward also closed for the start of the week, in part, because he can't keep the cloth cleaners from freezing in such cold temperatures.

"Plus our employees would be mighty cold as well," he said. "It's better to wait until it warms up slightly."

Both washes plan to open again Wednesday, when afternoon highs are forecasted to soar into the mid-40s.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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