Weather-related outages wreaking havoc on small businesses

  • Businesses along Grand Avenue in Lindenhurst alert customers that they are closed due to power outages Tuesday morning.

      Businesses along Grand Avenue in Lindenhurst alert customers that they are closed due to power outages Tuesday morning. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Russ Peters, president of Mobile Print Inc. in Mount Prospect, talks with his brother, Dave, vice president. They have been conducting business without an Internet or phone connection following Monday morning's storm, and have been receiving copies of files from customers on CDs and thumb drives.

      Russ Peters, president of Mobile Print Inc. in Mount Prospect, talks with his brother, Dave, vice president. They have been conducting business without an Internet or phone connection following Monday morning's storm, and have been receiving copies of files from customers on CDs and thumb drives. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Russ Peters, president of Mobile Print Inc. in Mount Prospect, has been conducting business without an Internet or phone connection following Monday morning's storm. The company has been receiving copies of files from customers on CDs and thumb drives.

      Russ Peters, president of Mobile Print Inc. in Mount Prospect, has been conducting business without an Internet or phone connection following Monday morning's storm. The company has been receiving copies of files from customers on CDs and thumb drives. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

  • Russ Peters, president of Mobile Print Inc. in Mount Prospect, has been conducting business without an Internet or phone connection following Monday morning's storm. The company has been receiving copies of files from customers on CDs and thumb drives.

      Russ Peters, president of Mobile Print Inc. in Mount Prospect, has been conducting business without an Internet or phone connection following Monday morning's storm. The company has been receiving copies of files from customers on CDs and thumb drives. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/13/2011 6:43 AM

After seven years of owning Beans & Leaves Coffee & Tea Cafe in Long Grove, Karen Krahn has faced her toughest year so far: a blizzard, a tornado and now another major storm-induced power outage.

Her downtown coffee shop lost all its food and customers the last couple of days. Even regular customers felt sympathetic and offered to help her pick up food or straighten up the disarray, remnants of 75-mile-an-hour winds.

 

"This was just like having a blizzard," said Krahn. "It's like a snow day but without the shoveling."

While she remains optimistic, she's been quietly totaling up the losses in food and potential customers just like 60 other businesses without power in historic downtown Long Grove. Small and mid-size businesses throughout the region Tuesday found themselves once again struggling to keep afloat amid tough economic worries and now weather-related interruptions in services. Some remained without power on Tuesday, while others had power restored but didn't have phone or Internet service.

"Every hour closed means no cash to pay rent or anything else," said John Maguire, community development director for Long Grove Partners. "All water wells powered by electric pumps (are out), so there's no food service or restrooms."

Dave Peters, co-owner of Mobile Print in Mount Prospect, continued to scramble Tuesday even after power was restored. The shop still didn't have phone or Internet services, which are key to serving customers. About 70 percent of Mobile Print's business is transacted over email and involves other software.

"I don't know yet what potential orders we're missing, but typically we get 10 to 12 jobs a day, but so far we just got two orders," said Peters.

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He runs the shop with his brother, Russ Peters, and seven employees, all working fast to fulfill orders that were backed up since Monday's outage. They even sent out some workers the old-fashioned way to manually pick up CDs or thumb drives instead of relying on email, Peters said.

"The losses have been significant," Peters said. "This is definitely hurting us."

A number of Lake County businesses in towns like Libertyville, Round Lake Beach, Lindenhurst and Wauconda were dark on Tuesday. Even the Lake County Chamber of Commerce was closed and a ribbon-cutting event for an area business was canceled, all due to the power outage.

"Anytime there is an area-wide power outage businesses that lose power will be adversely affected," said Dale Perrin, executive director of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce. "The issue is not whether they lost power or not, but how prepared they are to deal with the situation. Do they have backup systems, generators, alternative locations to direct customers?"

Mary Ahart, who works at home for Matrix to process credit card transactions for area businesses, had her power restored with an emergency generator and still waited for her phone and Internet services on Tuesday in Winfield.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I must have rebooted my computer for the 10th time today," Ahart said. "I'm still sitting here, hitting my head against the wall."

She purchased an emergency generator that cost about $650, and it requires a gallon of gasoline per hour. It takes five gallons at a time and she's already filled up three times.

"It's getting expensive," she said.

Generators have been keeping the computers running at Progressive Components in Wauconda, and many of the 55 employees have had to work from home. Manager Glenn Starkey said it's been a chaotic 48 hours, and they've had to reschedule major meetings because of the power outage.

"Normal day-to-day project work is just impossible," he said, noting that all calls are being routed to their offices in California.

• Staff Writer Jamie Sotonoff contributed to this report.