Small businesses hunker down, cope during big winter storm

NEW YORK (AP) — The huge snowstorm that hit the Northeast Monday had some small companies hunkering down and others coping with a spike in business.

Limousine company owner Bob Bellagamba expected to lose as much as 90 percent of his daily revenue Tuesday because the business people who are his biggest customers canceled meetings and trips. Many of the trips his Freehold, New Jersey-based company, Concorde Worldwide, makes are to airports, but more than 7,000 flights have been canceled through Wednesday, including those to nearby Newark Liberty International Airport.

But Concorde Worldwide was staying open during the storm, ready to send SUVs and front-wheel-drive cars out on the roads as long as it’s safe to do so.

“We’ll have cars available to take people to hospitals and handle emergencies,” Bellagamba said.

Bellagamba expects business to start returning to normal as soon as the storm passes and roads are plowed. In the meantime, the company will be fully staffed as workers keep clearing snow off of the vehicles and take customer calls.

As much as three feet of snow was forecast along the Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor by late Tuesday, affecting small businesses in the region and beyond. Many including retailers were closed. Others like Concorde Worldwide were operating but with few customers. But some businesses got a pickup in revenue as customers prepared for the storm.

The storm had owners of home health care companies like Jennifer Wells reworking schedules so elderly and ill clients most in need of care get it. Wells, owner of Nurse Next Door of Wayne, New Jersey, was having some of the workers known as caregivers stay past the end of their usual shifts with the frailest clients, those who need 12-hour or 24-hour care.

Clients who need minimal care, such as help shopping, won’t be getting caregiver visits. Wells has made sure they’re well prepared for the storm, but the plan is to not have any employees traveling Tuesday. That will cost Wells some revenue, but she shrugged off the impact on her bottom line.

“One day of missed visits is minuscule in the big picture of things,” she said.

Other companies got a revenue pop from the storm.

The forecasts sent people rushing not only to grocery stores, but to computer repair companies like Joe Silverman’s Manhattan shop, New York Computer Help. Silverman had 20 percent more business than he usually gets on a Monday as customers wanted to be sure their smartphones, tablets and computers would work while they were snowed in.

“It got crazy in the morning, first thing,” Silverman said. “People were coming in with desktop computers in garbage bags and suitcases.”

Silverman’s seven workers were busy all day, but two left early to be sure they’d be able to make it home before the storm worsened.

The storm had an impact on companies based far away from the Northeast. Five employees of Konnect Public Relations including the company’s top executives flew from Los Angeles to New York on Sunday, expecting to have a full schedule of meetings over the next two days. Soon after they arrived, clients began canceling.

By Monday morning, the company’s CEO, Sabina Aldea Gault, and chief operating officer, Monica Guzman, delivered the bad news at the group’s Manhattan hotel.

“They both came in and said, ‘we’re going to get so snowed in. There’s nothing we can do,'” said Brandy Stone, an account manager with Konnect.

Konnect was likely to lose more than $5,000 on the trip after salvaging just one client meeting Monday morning. The marooned staffers planned to spend their time doing whatever work they can at their hotel and holding online meetings with Konnect employees back in Los Angeles.

“We all have laptops, and we’re just sitting on the beds, trying to make the most of it,” Stone said.

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