Distributors Report Minimal Damage from Storm

When Hurricane Florence struck the mid-Atlantic last week, it interrupted the operations of businesses across the storm’s path. Foodservice equipment distributors were no exception, although most seemed to have fared well.

One of the cities hit hardest by Florence was Fayetteville, N.C., where the Cape Fear River crested at 61.4 feet Wednesday morning, 25 feet above its flood stage, according to the National Weather Service. Many homes were partially under water, but Drew O’Quinn, FEDA Board treasurer and vice president of Fayetteville-based Thompson & Little, said his company suffered only minor damage to its facility. The company closed Thursday, Sept. 13, and Friday, Sept. 14, ahead of the storm but was able to reopen the following Monday. “We’re fine," O’Quinn said. “Everything is OK at Thompson & Little. At this point, the speed at which we get to our customers is a little slow.

“We’re already back to normal,” he added.

At least one Thompson & Little employee was evacuated from their home but the largest impact on the business itself has been the still flooded roadways. “The main issue right now is just navigating streets and highways,” O’Quinn continued. “Some of those are washed out.”

The impact to most FEDA members was limited to transportation. McLane Phillips, a sales associate for Foodservice & Restaurant Supply (FRS), said the company delayed its weekly store transfer shipment on Tuesday, Sept. 11, but was able to make the regular delivery the following week. “The only thing that got affected were some shipping issues,” Phillips said. “We were blessed. We came out good.”

Like Thompson & Little, FRS closed its branches in Charleston and Florence, S.C., the Thursday and Friday before the Hurricane made landfall, limiting the risk to employees. Both locations reopened within a few days.

Fadels Foodservice Equipment & Supplies in Charlotte, N.C., also avoided the worst of the storm. “We, here in Charlotte, had minimal winds and six to seven inches of rain, but it hasn’t really affected our business,” co-owner and Vice President Amina Stewart explained. However, she was concerned about her colleagues at Jacobi-Lewis in Wilmington, N.C., which is part of the same buying group as Fadels. The surrounding floods isolated Wilmington for much of last week and Jacobi-Lewis’ close proximity to the mouth of Cape Fear River made it susceptible to the rising water level.

Fortunately, Wilson Horton, comptroller for Jacobi-Lewis, said the Wilmington facility was intact except for a few roof leaks. “We were very fortunate, we had very little damage,” he added.

The company closed Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12 and reopened Wednesday, Sept. 19 once the building’s power and Internet returned. However, the facility's phone lines remained down, forcing Jacobi-Lewis to reroute calls from its main number to employee cells phones. Still, by the end of the week, local business had mostly returned to normal, even as the high water made it difficult to enter or exit the city. “Roadways are improving unless you want to come into Wilmington,” Horton said.