Employers returning to business as usual

As a few local businesses assessed damages caused by last week's blizzard, Monday was largely a day to get back to work.

At the local casinos, some employees had to stay on-site over the weekend, ensuring that staffing levels were sufficient, spokeswomen for Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun said.

"While we remained open, several of our outlets and venues were closed to allow our team members to care for their personal needs," said Dale Wolbrink, Foxwoods' manager of public relations. "Many of our team members had volunteered to stay on property to ensure that we stayed operational."

Mohegan Sun reserved hotel rooms for employees and had temporary beds available, spokeswoman Cathy Soper said. Many hotel guests extended their stays over the weekend, leading to a sellout Saturday night.

Both casinos reported that all of their restaurants and retail outlets were open Monday.

Pfizer Inc. scientists got the day off Friday, but the pharmaceutical giant's Groton campus resumed normal operations Monday.

"As we recognize that this winter storm has had a significant impact across the area, if a colleague's personal circumstances required them to work remotely, they coordinated with their managers to be able to do so," said Pfizer spokeswoman Lauren Starr.

Electric Boat sent workers home early Friday, then largely canceled Saturday and Sunday operations before the shipyard returned to normal with a late shift that started at 11:30 Sunday night, said company spokesman Robert Hamilton.

"The impact on our workload wasn't zero," Hamilton said of the storm. "But it wasn't as bad as if it had happened on a weekday."

For businesses that count on Friday and Saturday traffic, however, losing much of the weekend hurt.

"Putting up a couple zeros Friday and Saturday is tough, because you don't make that up during the week," said Bill Dougherty, owner of the Olde Mistick Village Art Cinemas. "But everybody's in the same boat."

The weekend also is a major time for real estate showings, and Marilyn Lusher of Re/Max Home Team in Waterford said several open houses were canceled Saturday and Sunday.

"It's not a good thing to lose the weekend," she said. "But they'll make up for it next weekend."

Erin Merz, spokeswoman for Mystic Aquarium, said weekends during the winter are the facility's big-traffic days, but for the safety of patrons and workers the aquarium closed early Friday and remained shuttered the rest of the weekend.

The aquarium never lost power, thanks to backup generators, she said, but as a safety precaution several animals that normally stay outside - African penguins and stingrays - were moved inside. Other animals used to colder conditions - beluga whales, northern fur seals, harbor seals and Stellar sea lions - remained outside, under the supervision of staff, several of whom stayed overnight to make sure the animals were fed and cared for.

"The team was here around the clock," Merz said.

Nick Farrauto, manager of the Lazy Burrito in East Lyme and Mystic, said his restaurants were closed Saturday and Sunday, largely because of power issues. Business had returned to normal by Monday afternoon, but with icy roads predicted during the evening he wasn't sure what to expect from the dinner crowd.

"Everything depends on the weather," he said.

Local grocery stores can relate. They have been through major storms four times in the past two years and have got their inventory down to a science - so much so that there were far less shortages of items during the blizzard than in past weather emergencies, they said.

"We do handle logistics and lead time and turn things around quickly," said Kevin Brouillard, vice president of Tri-Town Foods, which has stores in East Lyme, Uncasville and Portland.

Some of the popular items are batteries, bottled water, candles, rock salt, wood, delicatessen items and prepared foods.

"We prepare for it," said Roxanne Ferraro, general manager of McQuade's Marketplace in Mystic. "People pretty much buy the same things in a snowstorm."

But no amount of preparation can prepare business owners for some catastrophes. At Salem Herbfarm, an oversized greenhouse collapsed from the weight of the more than 2 feet of snow that descended on the region Friday night and early Saturday.

"We're kind of in shock," said Anne Duncan, co-owner of the popular floral destination, which sells shrubs, annuals, perennials, tomato plants and herbs, among other items.

The damaged greenhouse was three times the size of the farm's only other growing area, which survived only because plastic damaged in a previous windstorm allowed the snow to pass through rather than buckle the structure, Duncan said.

"We will be up and running," she added, but with fewer home-grown plants this spring.

Another business that sustained damage during the storm, Jaypro Sports in Waterford, said the effects were minimal when a small section of a roof in the back of the manufacturing plant collapsed from the weight of the snow.

"We got lucky," said Bill Wild, Jaypro's executive vice president.

Wild reported that most employees were back to work Monday and the plant never lost electricity. But deliveries to the site on Route 85 had been delayed for several days, he said, because of the difficulty of transporting materials over snowbound roads.

l.howard@theday.com

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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