Va. small businesses hit hard by harsh winter

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Local business owners say they’re ready to rebound from a rough winter that’s hurt their bottom line.

The all-too-frequent slick conditions forced many doors to close and kept drivers off the roads — sometimes for days! Thursday spoke to entrepreneurs still assessing the financial damage done.

“I grew up here,” said Stefanie Osfolk Brown, owner of Bier Garden in Portsmouth. “I was born at Virginia Beach General. I remember having winters like this when I was little. I don’t remember having one since being a business owner. It’s been insane. It’s constantly a mix between I’ve got people that have got to work because they got to make ends meet, and is it safe to even bring them in. It has been a weird winter. On top of that, we had the tunnels too. So it’s hard to figure out where that decline has actually come from. Fingers crossed that spring will actually come.”

Small Business Majority recently published a study entitled “Extreme Weather Puts Economic Chill on Virginia Small Businesses.” They surveyed more than 500 businesses and found one in five claim to have laid off workers because of adverse weather conditions this year. Of those impacted by extreme weather, four in 10 report damages between $5,000 to $25,000. And about 59 percent have had to stay closed for up to a week after a bad storm.

“We lost about four days of business from our retail stores,” said Steve Kavanaugh, president and owner of Norfolk Florists. “We did keep our phones open and, of course, our website was open. The biggest thing was the cost of rock salt. Getting rock salt and then also getting the parking lots plowed. Can’t wait for spring, and we’ll never complain ever that it’s too hot!” asked what they’ve been doing to recover and Brown said they usually kept at least the bar open, even during the storms. Kavanaugh said they picked up some business at the florist by running sales after the storms. It’s not as profitable, but it’s better than not moving a perishable product.

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