Some store managers and employees reported to work as early as 7 a.m. Wednesday, with many more opening as the day went on. Within a few hours, shoppers began to crowd some gas stations and line up at grocery stores’ checkout lines, store managers across the county said.
“It was busy, but sporadic,” said Malcolm Vickery, the store director at Winn Dixie in Jacksonville.
Some area gas stations were reportedly inundated with customers in want of food staples Wednesday.
A store clerk said the Kangaroo on Alabama 202 ran out of bread and milk, and the Grub Mart in Jacksonville ran low on fuel.
Vernon Young, president of Piedmont-based Young Oil Inc., said customers who visited his local Grub Mart convenience stores were more interested in getting food than fuel. He said that sales of items inside the stores, including snacks and drinks, were up while gas sales were down slightly.
It balanced out, he said, and the stores made about the same amount of money they would have made on a typical Wednesday.
Young also said at least a couple of the company’s local stations ran out of some fuel grades. He added that his company’s gas trucks resumed their routes at noon Thursday, and said he expected no disruption in service for customers.
People were also able to shop at Walmart Supercenters throughout the county Wednesday. Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said the store’s shelves were well-stocked for the winter weather event.
Whaling said in anticipation of the storm, Walmart loaded trucks with extra bread, milk, batteries and flashlights early in the week. By the time the storm struck, she said, there were plenty of supplies.
Just one Walmart location in Calhoun County — the Jacksonville store — closed during the event, she said, at 10 p.m. Tuesday. It reopened Wednesday.
Whaling said she was unable to provide data on individual store sales.
Other businesses said fewer customers than usual visited on Wednesday, but the numbers were still better than they expected given the condition of the roads.
When Anniston Save-A-Lot assistant manager Allen Wright got to work at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, he said, he was the only person in the store, and the phones were ringing nonstop.
“They were even asking me how the roads were,” he said. “I said ‘Don’t try it just for a loaf of bread.’”
By noon, business started picking up, and by 1:30 p.m. another employee made it in to help out.
“A lot of people still couldn’t get out,” Wright said. Business was at times slow, and at times moderately busy Wednesday, he said.
Publix Super Market opened for a limited time on Wednesday, and offered customers what was reportedly a rare commodity — food served hot.
“Customers were saying there was no restaurants open in the area, so this was the only place they could come to get hot food,” said Brenda Reid, a corporate spokeswoman for Publix.
Wednesday morning some roads remained dangerous around the county, but sunshine and above-freezing temperatures caused snow and ice gradually to melt. As the thaw settled in, more businesses opened, and in Piedmont at least two fast food restaurants — Jack’s and McDonald's — were operating again.
By mid-afternoon business at Save-A-lot in Anniston was back to normal.
“You can tell the sun is out and doing its work,” Wright said. “It’s just like a regular day.”
Vickery said several of Winn Dixie’s customers Wednesday walked to the store, and some drove. The Jacksonville grocery worked with a limited number of staff members and closed at 4 p.m.
“We wanted to make sure everybody was safe,” Vickery said.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.