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posted: 7/16/2012 6:03 AM

Wheaton ice cream shop misses out on heat wave

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You'd think the owner of an iconic ice cream shop would have blessed the heat that enveloped the suburbs earlier this month.

Not Lucas Bingham. His Tates Old Fashioned Ice Cream, which the 22-year old entrepreneur bought in February, is in downtown Wheaton, one of the western suburbs laid low by a long power outage following a Sunday, July 1 storm.

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"We'd normally have 600 people in my shop on 96-degree days," Bingham says. Tates, however, was closed from shortly after Sunday noon until Friday, July 6, opening in time for the crowds that attend Wheaton's weekly Classic Car Night.

"The biggest problem was that our 15-ft. deep by 10-ft. wide freezer is hard-wired in" to the building's power supply. Bingham had no backup generator and no way to connect one to the hard-wired freezer anyway.

Bingham did the right things, scoring an initial supply of dry ice from a Meijer store in Bolingbrook to preserve the 140 tubs of ice cream in the freezer. "We made as many phone calls as we could to locate as much dry ice as possible," he says. Because dry ice, which is solidified carbon dioxide, does evaporate, "We tried to find a refrigerated truck to rent, but every truck was rented."

Even after power was restored, Tates remained closed. Ice cream is made on site, and "It takes us 24 hours to freeze ice cream," Bingham explains. "We can make 40 tubs every other day."

He brought in staff, local high school and college students, to help make new ice cream, "but that was payroll expense with no revenue." Combining lost revenue with lost product, the outage cost Bingham $10,000.

Like most beginning entrepreneurs, "I don't have a lot of working capital," Bingham says. Even so, his next task is to "get a generator installed to run the big freezer."

Depending on the business, a generator that self starts when the power goes out probably is a good idea. So is disaster recovery planning: A power outage, though not fun, typically isn't as serious, or as life threatening, as a fire, flood, tornado or other disaster.

If a disaster strikes during working hours:

• You'll want to have a predetermined place where staff can meet -- so you can count heads.

• Then you'll need to be certain 911 has been called.

• Later, you'll want to keep customers informed about your situation. That means customer (and staff, too) contact information should be stored off site.

There is surprisingly good disaster response planning help available at www.ready.gov. There's also a sobering statistic from the Insurance Information Institute, which says that as many as 40 percent of businesses affected by a disaster never reopen.

Happily, Tates is back.

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.

2012 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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