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Stores experience onslaught of business as residents brace for storm

By ALLISON MILES
Feb. 2, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.

Billy Sainz of Inez came to Lowes Hardware, Wednesday, looking for pipe insulation only to find them completely sold out.  The cold temperature caused Lowes to sell out of all plumbing insulation supplies on Tuesday.  GENNA MARTIN/GMARTIN@VICAD.COM

Billy Sainz's cart was empty as he walked through Lowe's on Wednesday.

Although the home-improvement store carries a variety of items, it didn't have the one thing he needed: pipe insulation.

"I didn't think it would be here," the Inez homeowner said. "But I figured I'd check."

Stores received an onslaught of business as Crossroads residents prepared for the regional cold snap.

The heavy foot traffic hit Lowe's on Tuesday as customers went in for heaters, heat lamps, light bulbs and more, said Willie McBride, assistant store manager. Lowe's nearly doubled its normal daily sales.

"Today's been kind of slow because we're out of stuff," he said Wednesday. "Normally, on pipe insulation, we order enough for a whole year. Our supply normally would last through summer, but we sold everything we had."

The rush at Home Depot began about three days ago, said Mike Kuecker, the store's specialty sales manager.

The staff prepared by bringing its cold weather supplies to the front of the store for easy access. It also brought a majority of the garden section's plants indoors to protect them from the cold.

Although some items remain, Home Depot was running low on heaters, insulation and more Wednesday.

"We've been real busy, but we were ready for it," he said.

The H-E-B on Rio Grande Street ordered more cold-weather supplies than usual before the cold front hit, said Kevin Thompson, the store director. That included everything from antifreeze to stew meat, hot chocolate and more.

"Yesterday was extremely busy," he said Wednesday afternoon. "I think that the cold weather, coupled with the first of the month, brought in quite a bit of extra traffic.

Business was also up at Lentz True Value Hardware as people prepared for the next few days, said Ray Shannon, store manager.

"We've had some busted pipes, so plumbing supplies have been selling," he said. "There are still people looking for insulation, heat lamps and heaters."

The staff expected another shipment on Thursday and Shannon said he checked in with the trucking company from time to time, just to make sure.

"We're trying to help everybody out," he said. "Even if we don't have exactly what they're looking for, we'll see if we can make something else work."

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