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Sun., Oct. 4
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Closures caused by snowstorm cause businesses to lose sales, manpower


North country businesses that closed Tuesday and Wednesday because of the lake-effect snowstorm have developed damage-control plans to rebound from lost sales and manpower.

Production of picture frames halted at Timeless Frames, which has a staff of 174 full-time employees. Located at Jefferson County Corporate Park on outer Coffeen Street, the manufacturer has closed only three times during the past 15 years: on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and during the Dec. 21 ice storm, CEO Lisa A. Weber said.

Though the lake-effect storm cost the company 16 hours of manpower, the decision to close was made to ensure the safety of all employees, Mrs. Weber said. She decided to close the business Monday night when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a state of emergency.

To make up for lost production, employees were scheduled to work 10-hour shifts Thursday and today. They’ll work a full day on Saturday and some overtime hours next week.

The closure “seemed like a tough call because a lot of people needed to work, but it didn’t seem responsible to stay open with the state of emergency in effect,” Ms. Weber said. “Retrospectively, it worked out well because it was dangerous out there to drive.”

Nine company trucks that made deliveries across the Northeast were stopped en route to Watertown on Tuesday because of the closure of Interstate 81; they were waylaid in Syracuse on Tuesday and Wednesday, waiting for snowplows to clear the highway.

“To some extent, we can make up for one of the lost days, but you don’t know what opportunities you missed because you weren’t able the phone,” Ms. Weber said. “But it was an easy trade-off to make so that everyone could be safe.”

New York Air Brake Co., by contrast, managed to stay open Tuesday and Wednesday by reducing its workforce by less than half at its headquarters on Starbuck Avenue, President Michael J. Hawthorne said. Shipping and receiving docks were closed for both days, which delayed trucks from delivering products. But operations were back up to speed Thursday, Mr. Hawthorne said, because products were packaged and ready to be shipped.

Only employees who could safely drive to work were at the facility during the storm, Mr. Hawthorne said.

“We always tell employees not to show up to work if there’s any risk,” he said.

Three Yo-Johnnny! yogurt shops in Watertown were closed Tuesday and Wednesday because of the storm, owner Johnny Spezzano said. About 20 employees who work at the shops on Towne Center Drive, State Street and the Watertown Shopping Plaza on Washington Street stayed home to wait out the storm.

“The roads were unbelievably bad, and I have a lot of young people and single mothers working for me and wasn’t going to make them come out in that weather,” Mr. Spezzano said. “Obviously when you’re not operating, you’re not putting money into your account. We kind of bit the bullet, but it seems like when there’s a storm like this, everyone in the north country is locked indoors. But the first thing they do when it ends is get outside, and we expect great sales.”

F.X. Caprara Auto Sales dealerships on outer Washington Street stayed open during the storm, but employees were sent home early Tuesday and Wednesday, said William F. Caprara, co-owner of Caprara Bros. Most employees for the company, which has a total of about 70 staffers, left by 2 p.m.

“We had (customers) who made appointments who live outside the city, and some of them came down here who had no idea about the storm,” he said. “We had a lady who drove down from Ogdensburg (Tuesday) who had an appointment for her car, and she was fine until she hit the weather near Fort Drum. We had people here, but we didn’t do any business. You couldn’t see anything in the parking lot.”

On Thursday, employees spent most of the day clearing off snow from about 1,000 new vehicles in parking lots, Mr. Caprara said.

The regional landfill in Rodman stopped collecting truckloads of trash at 1 p.m. Tuesday and was closed Wednesday, said Richard R. LeClerc, solid waste management division manager for the Development Authority of the North Country. To compensate for that lost time, the landfill will be open from 7:15 a.m. to noon Saturday for trash haulers that need to dispose of waste that was put on hold. The six employees who work that shift will be paid overtime.

About 75 to 95 trucks deliver trash on any given day, Mr. LeClerc said. The landfill closes only during extreme weather that restricts travel.

“Historically, I don’t know that the landfill has closed in advance of opening,” he said. “On Wednesday morning, the weather was sufficiently bad and a delayed opening was the initial call. But as the day progressed, it was fairly obvious that we wouldn’t open.”

“A lot of factors went into the decision. A major driving force was that the roads were impassable, and the town of Rodman had officially closed their roads. There were private businesses that stopped operations, and some commercial haulers informed us they were stopping.”

When the landfill finally opened 7:15 a.m. Thursday, it was obvious that a steady flow of haulers would arrive, Mr. LeClerc said. Massive accumulations of trash from the storm period need to be dumped.

“Everyone is trying to maximize their ability to get trucks here,” he said. “Today was a very busy day.”

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