Businesses prepare for tropical storm

June 28, 2010 at 1:28 a.m.

Many local businesses are eyeing Tropical Storm Alex as it threatens to strengthen and make its way to the Texas Coast.

Several businesses that sell hurricane materials saw an increase in foot traffic Monday, though not a lot of purchases.

Pete Ramos, the sales manager at Lowe's, said he saw a lot of people price-shopping things like generators and plywood, but he noticed only a few hurricane-related purchases.

"Just like everybody else, we're waiting to see what will happen," he said.

Ramos also noted Lowe's has a replenishment program - basically warehouses in different parts of the state - that can ship any needed products to the area quickly.

H-E-B has a similar store-to-store program, through which the grocery chain sends team members to help out in stores affected by natural disasters.

H-E-B Plus' general manager, Doug Wallace, said the Victoria store will have a conference call with its corporate offices Tuesday at 8 a.m. to discuss the strategy for dealing with the tropical storm.

Wallace said he has seen an increase in the sale of water at H-E-B but not much else.

Spokespersons for the Formosa Plastics, Invista and Dow Chemical plants all said their companies were monitoring the storm closely and that they have established protocol for events like Tropical Storm Alex.

"We have a plan designed to minimize production interruption and of course protect our employees, community and environment," said Trish Ritthaler, community relations manager at Dow.

At least one Victoria company did see a boom in business Monday.

Jacob Hahn, owner of Specialty Shutter Systems, which manufactures and sells hurricane shutters, said he saw about a 75-percent increase in phone calls Monday.

"We had to stop booking calls and start focusing on the customers we have," Hahn said.

The executive vice president of Zarsky Lumber, Cally Fromme, said their store sent a truckload of plywood to Zarsky's Los Fresnons location, which is close to Brownsville.

Other than that, she said, most people are just coming to the store to compare prices.

"They're just stopping by, shooting the breeze about it. No pun intended," Fromme said.



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