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Some businesses are islands in the storm

Union Leader News

February 08. 2013 9:19PM
A customer brushes the snow off his car at the Puritan Back Room in Manchester, during the snowstorm on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Chuck Stergiou figured he should let Facebook fans of the Puritan Restaurant know that no "saute specials" were planned for the weekend, so Friday evening he posted the following:

"As always, we will be open no matter how bad the storm gets! We will not be having any saute specials this weekend, though. Please be safe everyone!"

He was shocked when his notice about specials was greeted with criticism for staying open, with posters saying employee safety should be a priority, that staying open only encourages people to go out on the roads when they shouldn't, that the owners of the Hooksett Road business in Manchester only care about money, and that they are insensitive.

"It's kind of nice," he said, that other people called the complainers on their criticisms.

Along with faithful customers, some current and former Puritan employees began posting about how caring management is, with one employee saying a member of management drove her home in a four-wheel drive vehicle to ensure her safety in one storm. Others talked about working there for years and staying because they know that management cares about them and wouldn't do anything to put them in danger.

Stergiou said staying open isn't a new idea. "It's something we've always done," he said, and he expected to be open until midnight, as usual on Friday night.

Occasionally, if the weather is really bad, and everyone agrees, they may close a little early. But, he said: "People find a way to get here."

He said if employees feel they can't come in, he understands. Nobody is forced to come in. But some employees need the hours and will find a way in safely.

Stergiou said the Puritan, at 245 Hooksett Road, provides an important service during a storm. It's a place where utility crews, public safety workers, people who've lost power, and people who are used to going out to dinner can come and be warm and enjoy a meal.

For the people working long hours because of the storm, it's a place they can count on being open, and place to take a break and recharge.

He said how people get to the Puritan sometimes depends on how much snow falls. "People walk down. We've had them come on snow shoes, cross country skis, snowmobiles." he said.

So unless Gov. Maggie Hassan says the roads are closed Saturday, said Stergiou, the Puritan will open as usual at 11 a.m., with plans to stay open until midnight.

The U.S. Postal Service said that, in New Hampshire and surrounding states affected by the storm, post offices will be closed today and no mail will be delivered. However, postal employees at mail processing centers in Manchester and Nashua do have to work today.

Post offices were expected to resume normal operations on Monday.

In Manchester, the slogan may be "America runs on Dunkin," but not today in Manchester. There are a number of storm-related closings of Dunkin' Donut stores, including 855 Candia Road, 1037 Hanover St., 947 Second St., 100 Eddy Road, 1932 Wellington Road, 921 Beech St., and the stores in both Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital.

In Concord, the Steeplegate Mall closed early Friday and will have a delayed opening today. The mall itself will open two hours later than usual, at noon, although anchor stores Sears, BonTon and JCPenney may open earlier. Check with those stores directly.

The Simon Malls in New Hampshire - Mall of New Hampshire, Fox Run Mall, Mall at Rockingham Park and the Pheasant Lane Mall - all closed at 2 p.m. Friday. Check the Facebook pages for the individual malls for the latest information on when they will open today.

Nashua business

Dave Manganello owns The Sausage King on Main Street in Nashua. He said today's blizzard hits his business hard - and it couldn't have come at a worse time of the week.

"Being closed on a Monday or Tuesday," Manganello shrugged, "Meh. They're slow anyway. But for a Friday or Saturday night, it seems like traditionally it always snows."

Manganello said storms generally cut sales in half. But being closed Friday and Saturday nights - between midnight and two, as people leave the bars - could mean he loses 40 percent of weekly sales.

And if it had come two weeks ago, it could've crippled the business. But he recently took out a loan that allowed him to pull through.

"We were living hand to mouth for most of December and January," he said. "The cold was really what caused that. The Holiday Stroll came, and from one weekend to the next we went from the best weekend we've ever had to the worst weekend we've ever had."

Manganello is trying to strike a deal with Mayor Donnalee Lozeau for a city worker discount. If he can serve the city's plow guys, who are provided with food during storms, he said he'd be able to absorb some of the storm-time losses.

"We'd love to be able to get that business to offset the loss of business when we're closed," he said.

On the other side of the county is Lane Carle, owner of Lakeview Materials and Trucking in Merrimack. Twenty-fiv e percent of his plowing business is hourly work, and 75 percent is with accounts that pay for the whole winter up front, no matter how much or how little it snows. With every storm, Carle loses money on that 75 percent.

Asked if he'd shut the storm off given the ability, Carle said absolutely not. "I wouldn't shut it off, I'd let it keep going. Mother Nature has its way of creating jobs and balancing the budget out for everyone."

Carle said he pays his plow guys and shovel guys the same: $20 an hour. They are the ones who cash in on the storm, and it's possible that with today's blizzard they will work 30 hours, earning $600 at week's end.

"You don't sleep in between," Carle said. "You're not allowed to. That's not an option. You work. It's mindboggling, it's draining, (but) you want to eat."

"It's not like a normal job," he added. "Most people cannot handle plowing snow. It's either in your blood or it's not."

Business was also slow over at Bonhoeffer's Café on Franklin Street. Like The Sausage King, manager Karen Misiag said snow cuts business in half. The opposite is true however when the power goes out.

"When people lose power, and we have power, and our girls can come in, (customers) come," Misiag said.

But Friday afternoon, as the snow began to dust the city streets, Bonhoeffer's was empty. Misiag said people are probably hunkering in their own homes.

"But if they lose power, this place would be really busy," she said with a smile. "They have the heat, they have the coffee, they have the food."

Though they are likely to be closed today, Misiag said if they're able to open, then open they'll be. Especially if power goes out in parts of the city.;

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