Power failures a drain to businesses | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Power failures a drain to businesses

White stuff other than snow has made an impact on South Lake Tahoe business lately.

Tahoe Keys Liquor has surrendered its dairy products because those goods failed to survive a prolonged power outage. Many businesses never opened their doors because of the power failure, while others became a place of refuge.

It was a story played out around the South Shore, as businesses owners warily counted their losses because of the storm.

“We’re in here today throwing out all the ice cream — or any kind of dairy product,” liquor store owner Kelly Gorman said Wednesday morning. “I was hoping the freezer would have lasted 24 hours, and it didn’t.”

The store lost power at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and Gorman estimated the business lost $2,000. That’s its average gross for a weekday.

With no lights on, many passing motorists didn’t know the store was open for business, he added. Regulars occasionally came in for items like beer.

From the bane to the blessing of a hot meal, Ernie’s Coffee Shop became somewhat of a refuge for many people without power who were looking for a place to eat.

“They were just trying to find a place for a hot meal. We were very busy,” owner Paul Bruso said. “From past experience, we’ve learned how to deal with this.”

The coffee shop lost power from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, but Bruso has learned to improvise. Beyond using gas to cook, the restaurant relies on its wall of windows to provide enough light for its customers to dine without electricity.

Stores across the street looking for holiday shoppers didn’t fare as well.

The Factory Outlet Stores lost power most of Monday and Tuesday, in those valuable last few days before Christmas.

In true Tahoe style, Sierra Shirts Manager Marc Segal came in Wednesday morning with a stiff upper lip and a positive outlook. The power came on in the middle of the night, leaving Segal with “no idea” of any kind of estimate of lost business, he said.

“It’s a good thing this didn’t happen on the weekend or next week. If it would’ve happened next week, it would’ve been more dramatic,” he said of the prospect of a last-minute Christmas rush and tourist traffic.

Many retailers here rely on the holiday season for more than 40 percent of their annual revenue. A flourishing snow base at the ski resorts help a majority of those businesses reach those goals.

The power outage doesn’t benefit anybody in the short term; it’s the long haul that may make the storm worthwhile for tourism, South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce President Molly Blann said.

South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Jerry Birdwell agreed.

“This couldn’t have happened at a better time,” he said.

Skiers and boarders are expected to pack the slopes now through the holidays.

But Crescent V Shopping Center retailers are hoping the parking lot will be more manageable than the congested traffic that’s crawled along Highway 50 all week.

Many snow-riding enthusiasts had already made a jump on the slopes Wednesday, packing the Stateline-area lot. The city’s parking garage at the Marriott complex on Park Avenue won’t be finished until spring, prompting Sidestreet Boutique Owner Barbara Parina to lament over losing customers Wednesday afternoon. Her employees were also forced to park “in the muck” behind the store.

“It’s a mess. The whole parking lot is filled with skiers,” she said. “This is my livelihood. I usually make $25,000 on a day like this. I’ll be lucky to do $2,000.”

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com

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