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C-Store Retailers Dealing With Dorian

Priorities include safety of employees, customers, providing help for first responders
Photograph courtesy of Parker's

MIAMI — Tropical storm conditions continued along portions of the northeastern coast of Florida on Sept. 4 as Hurricane Dorian continued to make its slow trek toward the United States after parking over the Bahamas for a day and a half, according to an Associated Press update.

At least five deaths have been reported, with the full extent of the damage as yet unknown.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said that as of early Wednesday, the storm was moving north-northwest, tracking offshore and nearly parallel to Florida’s Atlantic shoreline. It expected Dorian to remain a powerful hurricane.

The hurricane center said residents should expected life-threatening storm surges, dangerous winds and flash flooding along portions of the east coast of Florida and the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, “regardless of the exact track of Dorian’s center.” It also said that “hurricane-force winds” continued to increase along portions of the Virginia coast and southern Chesapeake Bay.

Convenience-store retailers responded to the threat with the usual concern for employees, customers and communities. Here are a few retailers that shared their plans:

Parker’s

In a message to customers provided to CSP Daily News, Greg Parker (pictured above with executive team), CEO of the 54-unit, Savannah, Ga.-based Parker’s, said:

As Hurricane Dorian continues to pose a threat to the Southeast coast, our executive team is hard at work, formulating plans to keep as many stores open as possible. Our goal is to meet the needs of our customers while keeping our team members safe. It’s a delicate balance, and we’re doing our best to make the appropriate decisions.

We’re also working closely with our fuel providers, transportation companies and vendors to make sure we have the items you need at Parker’s, from fuel to food. Our team is here for you during this challenging time.

Our Parker’s values require us all to do the right thing, especially during a crisis. That’s why we will never price gouge or take advantage of the situation. We’re committed to providing you with the best products at the best prices at all times.

At Parker’s, we take our responsibility to the community very seriously. We are here for you, even in tough times. Our goal is to be the last to close and the first to open. We take our commitment to loyal customers like you—and to the community—to heart. Parker’s is the place where you can meet your energy needs and find essential items. I’m delighted that our team is rising to the occasion, working long hours because they believe in our mission.

As of now, all of our stores in coastal Georgia and South Carolina are open. Please be sure to follow Parker’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to stay on top of the latest updates.

Please know that you are an important part of our Parker’s family, and we will always be here to support you. That is our promise to you. Thank you for the opportunity to earn your loyalty each and every day. We hope you and your loved ones will stay safe in the coming days.

An update posted on the chain’s Facebook page on Wednesday morning said, “We’re open. We’re working closely with local law enforcement and emergency officials to ensure the safety of our employees who choose to operate our stores today.”

Enmarket

“In order to serve the needs of evacuees and those residents electing to stay through the storm, Enmarket will keep its stores open as long as conditions are safe to operate,” Brett Giesick, president of Savannah, Ga.-based Enmarket, told CSP Daily News. “The safety of our employees is our primary concern, so we are using volunteers from outer areas to allow employees in evacuation zones to leave as needed. We are providing lodging with generator backup for those employees that need a safe place to stay. We are extremely grateful to our dedicated employees who have allowed most of our stores to remain open to serve the community and travelers for as long as possible.”

As of Tuesday, Enmarket had closed 28 c-stores in Georgia and South Carolina out of its 123 total convenience stores. Some were planning to reopen on Wednesday, and others “when the storm passes,” according to the chain’s Facebook page.

The city of Savannah enacted a curfew Tuesday evening, so Enmarket closed all Savannah locations in advance of this curfew, expecting them to reopen as soon as possible on Wednesday. Some Enmarket stores have generators and remained open through the storm as weather conditions permitted.

“We have plenty of fuel supply and we do not expect that to change,” said Giesick. “Store reopenings will occur as quickly as possible once the area has been deemed safe to operate and employees are able to return to work. We are updating the Enmarket Facebook page multiple times a day with the most up-to-date information on store closings or reopenings.”

Love’s

Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has approximately 480 locations nationwide, with nearly 20 in Florida.

“We are continuing to monitor Hurricane Dorian’s path," Love’s spokesperson Caitlin Campbell told CSP Daily News. "We have implemented safety protocols so that our stores can stay open as long as weather and staffing allows it. We have also increased fuel and food deliveries to stay stocked as people are preparing for the storm and evacuating.”

The chain posted severe weather, site closure and fuel availability updates on its website.

NACS

NACS provides emergency planning resources to help c-stores prepare and recover after an event such as a hurricane. When a storm hits, c-store owners and managers have to decide whether to stay open or temporarily close.

The association recommends that operations stop if an evacuation has been ordered or if structures are unsafe, in danger or subject to damage; however, staying open in an emergency gives c-stores the opportunity to support first responders and residents that often rely on the convenience channel for fuel, food, beverages and other essentials. Fuel demand is likely to be high during an evacuation, so if it’s safe, c-store managers will want to stay open, NACS says.

C-stores can support emergency personnel by leaving one or more fuel pumps available for them and authorizing store managers to donate basic supplies to responders and volunteers while they’re on duty.

NACS offers c-store retailers these tips for dealing with emergencies:

  • Store employees should have weather apps and a weather radio. 
  • Keep customers informed by having an employee walk lines of vehicles to communicate or offering a sign for travelers to see your store status.
  • Watch fuel inventories so you can let customers know in advance that you will shut down if tanks are running low.
  • Make fuel suppliers aware of increased demands.
  • If a store does not have a generator, try to rent one.
  • Provide safety cones and vests for managing traffic.
  • Arrange for a refrigerated truck to protect food items after power is lost.
  • Listen for rumors and help disseminate the correct information.

For those retailers that decide to close their c-stores during a hurricane, NACS recommends taking steps to help mitigate damage, including purchasing water-tight storage for inventory and records, making sure data has an offsite backup and designating a store emergency coordinator to organize the team and make final emergency decisions.

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