Snow boosts local business

While many eateries near campus saw jumps in traffic, food trucks didn’t fare quite as well

· February 18, 2010, 4:41 am   ·  Updated February 18, 2010, 12:00 am

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A student waits for her food at Tacos Don Memo. Last week’s snowfall — over 16 inches — caused some food carts to shut down for several days.


Penn students worked up an appetite throwing snowballs and sledding down the Locust Walk bridge during last week’s snowstorms.

The storms boosted traffic at some area businesses, according to several owners.

Businesses that opened their doors despite record snowfall found many hungry customers eager to get in.

Last Wednesday was the best non-holiday business day in the history of candy and coffee shop Cream and Sugar, according to owner Blythe Dim. Sales jumped 150 percent compared to an average weekday.

Students were happy to find the store open, and “some were tipsy,” Dim said.

Many ordered in mass quantities for three apartments at a time using their phones as checklists, she said.

Even smaller-scale operations, such as student-run Cafe Prima in Harrison College House, experienced a snow boost.

“I figured it would be normal business,” said College senior Caitlin Jones, head manager of Prima. But Wednesday sales actually increased 25 to 30 percent. She added that the cafe sold “lots of hot chocolate.”

Although storefronts may have been open, many businesses, including Cream and Sugar, suspended deliveries due to safety concerns. Insomnia Cookies could not deliver, given most deliveries are made by bicycle, Assistant Manager Ryan Glendenning said.

Koreana owner Mike Choi made one delivery Wednesday morning before deciding to halt further service. It took him an hour to drive two blocks, but once he returned, the restaurant was busy, he said.

Allegro Pizza offered delivery during the storm, charging $4 in delivery fares instead of the usual $1.50. The differential went to the drivers, owner Dimitrios Dimopoulis said.

Although many businesses reported a high volume of phone traffic as students called to see if they were open, food trucks were generally less fortunate.

Some trucks closed for the first time in years, including Hemo’s and Bui’s.

Bui’s closed the Saturday of the first heavy snowfall but was open when classes were cancelled.

“Not many students came by,” co-owner Rachel Tran said. She said revenue did not cover the $162 fine Bui’s was issued by the city for parking two cars on 38th Street, which is a Philadelphia snow emergency route.

But it was worth it coming just for the students that did stop by, she said.

Hemo Abdelaziz’s truck on 37th and Spruce streets lost three days of business. He drove by campus twice, once on Thursday to assess the area and again on Sunday to shovel snow.

On Monday, Abdelaziz had to clear snow from outside the Upper Quad Gate and push his truck to its regular location to avoid the large snow bank on the sidewalk. He also shoveled snow in front of his truck to make a larger clearing for customers.

Business owners, including Dim, managed to work around SEPTA’s irregular snow schedule.

At 6 a.m. Wednesday there was a lull in the snow and SEPTA resumed service, she said. Cream and Sugar opened an hour later.

Allegro’s made arrangements to pick up employees that otherwise couldn’t make it to work, Dimopoulis said.

Businesses also experienced delivery delays from suppliers and vendors.

Lyn’s couldn’t open for two days because their supplier wasn’t running, according to its owner.

Dim reported some shortages in ingredients such as skim milk and bananas, but the store recovered within 72 hours. One delivery fell through because the truck that supplied boxes for one vendor was caught in the snow, she said.

Allegro’s had to make special arrangements with vendors.

“The sales guys actually went inside the warehouses … because vendors weren’t delivering,” Dimopoulis said.

Some deliveries are still slow because not all roads have been cleared, he added.

Despite difficulties, the storm may have increased the customer base of businesses that were open last Wednesday, Dim said, as there was a steady trickle of business all day.

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