with gallery: Ann Arbor businesses find creative ways to stay open during power outage
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A powerful storm that knocked out power to thousands in Washtenaw County early Thursday morning has left many Ann Arbor area businesses in the dark — but some are finding creative ways to cater to customers.
For a cluster of businesses at East Stadium Boulevard and Packard Street, the power had been out since 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
Outages in the neighborhood appeared to be spotty, as several gas stations right across the street from the businesses had full power. Traffic signals at the intersection were run off of a generator.
The estimate from DTE Energy to have power restored is 10 p.m. Friday to the businesses, and to the entire area by Saturday - but by Thursday afternoon refrigerators and freezers were already losing their cool.
The 90-degree heat wave is expected to continue through the end of the week.
The staff at Stadium Market at 1423 E. Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor was all too familiar working without power. A brief outage last Thursday had temporarily stinted their business, but the extended blackout this week left them in a bind.
With coolers full of prepared sandwiches, salads and lunch meat, and freezers full of ice cream and frozen food, co-owner Vernon George knew it wouldn’t last two days without power.
According to the USDA, refrigerated food is safe to eat only if the power is out for four hours or less. Keep the door closed as much as possible.
Perishable items like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and cooked leftovers that have been above 40 degrees for over two hours should be thrown away. For a guide of what’s safe to eat during a power outage, click here.
George said he donated about 20 boxes of food to Food Gatherers, a nonprofit that collects excess food from area retailers to serve those in need, and to some to his employees. The 40 half-gallons and 80 pints of ice cream left in his freezer was fair game to whomever walked in the store.
Employees from the Caribou Coffee and Great Clips locations next door to the market stopped by to load up on the rapidly melting treats Thursday afternoon.
The rest, George said, would have to be thrown out. In all, George estimated he lost $10,000 of merchandise.
Though his insurance will cover about half of his loss, George said his rates will likely go up after the incident.
George was planning on bringing in a generator to run his credit card machines so he wouldn’t have to turn customers away. In an attempt to keep the store cool, he decided to not turn the gas ovens on Thursday to make pizzas.
Chris Rosenthal, owner of Smoky’s Cigars next door to the Stadium Market, he said he had to stay open as Thursdays and Fridays are the highest-traffic days in the store.
“You can’t make money if you’re closed,” Rosenthal said.
Thursday, the store was open for cash sales only. Rosenthal recently changed the name of Smoky’s to Tobacco Rose after purchasing the business five weeks ago.
Sitting in the dark of his store with an employee, Rosenthal waited out the blackout by eating pizza and watching a TV show on an iPad.
The humid weather meant the cigars in the store’s humidor would be fine through Friday, Rosenthal said, but after that he would need to bring in a generator.
Nearby at Roos Roast Coffee, the staff got a little creative to keep their doors open.
The company served up brews both hot and cold from their mobile coffee cart in its 1155 Rosewood St. location. The cart runs on propane and a motorcycle battery.
“It’s off-the-grid espresso,” said owner John Roos.
Roos invested in a gas generator Thursday morning to keep the company's roaster up and running to fill its weekly customer orders for coffee beans.
The crew was able to roast about 140 pounds of beans Thursday, said roaster Brian Barch.
Generators may be hard to come by, as many big-box stores in the Ann Arbor area reported their stock was nearly depleted by the end of the business day Thursday.
The Lowe’s locations on both Carpenter Road and Jackson Road reported they were sold out - save for one unit. The Costco in Pittsfield Township also reported they had three units left as of 5:15 p.m. Thursday.
The ACE Hardware at 2105 W. Stadium Boulevard had also sold out of its stock of generators, a manager said.
At Weingartz at 5436 Jackson Road in Ann Arbor, the flow of customers for generators was constant.
“We’ve been very, very busy today,” said salesman Brian Dittenber.
The business still had generators for sale Thursday evening because they had so many in stock, Dittenber said.
To run a household air conditioning unit, Dittenber said a generator would have to have a 10,000-watt capacity, which most retailers don’t sell.