Some Charlotte retailers are acutely feeling the effects of the fuel outage, which is making the ability to reach customers for delivery more challenging.
The cyber attack on Colonial Pipeline that supplies 45% of fuel in the Southeast, including Charlotte, sparked a surge in customers filling up starting Tuesday. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency but urged people not to top off their tanks, saying it’s causing the gasoline shortage.
By Wednesday morning, more than 70% of Charlotte gas stations were out of fuel, GasBuddy.com reported.
One local industry dependent on delivery is feeling the effects — flower delivery.
“My drivers are struggling to refuel with multiple routes a day,” said Christian Gonzalez, manager of Flowers of Charlotte on Clanton Road. “As a result we’re taking less orders and I had to cut off all orders for the rest of the week, just because it’s that bad right now.”
At the same the time, Gonzalez said, florists are still reeling from pandemic issues, like container and flower product shortages. He said vendor supply farms shut down operations during the pandemic.
“They didn’t anticipate the floral industry to be booming, as it is,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just shortages on shortages right now.”
Another florist is feeling the gasoline pinch, too.
“It is affecting the business. We’re taking every order for tomorrow today because I’m not sure if we’ll be able to deliver tomorrow,” said Ormi Uribe, the carrier and delivery driver for Southern Blossom Florist on East Boulevard.
‘Start getting creative’
Some other local businesses that rely on fuel for travel and to power tools say they are OK, for now.
The Plant Guys, a landscaping company based out of Charlotte, filled all of its trucks with diesel on Tuesday, owner Nick Dillon-Stout said.
“Hopefully the pipeline will be back up and running again before we need to fill up again,” he said. Cooper said Tuesday the pipeline is expected to be operating by the weekend.
Dillon-Stout said the company filled up its landscaping equipment last week, but they usually keep about 75 gallons of fuel in gas tanks handy just in case.
“If the supply chain isn’t back to normal before next week, I’ll have to start getting creative,” he said.
TakeNow, a locally-owned delivery service, is focusing on deliveries to restaurants instead of other services like dry cleaning and other pickup and drop-off businesses.
“It’s an evolving situation happening overnight, quite literally,” said TakeNow owner Samuel Hanna. “What we’ve had to do is limit the services we offer and prioritize the clients we serve the most, making sure we have enough drivers for restaurants.”
That’s important, he said, as restaurants recover from the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t want to put more stress on our local restaurant partners,” Hanna said.
TakeNow, which has operated in Charlotte and surrounding cities since 2011, works with more than 200 restaurants, like Marco’s Pizza, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Salsarita’s and Sonny’s BBQ. About a dozen “mobile waiters” each cover one or two ZIP codes, Hanna said, to help with efficiency and quicker delivery to residential and corporate customers.
He said they’re seeing a pickup in delivery orders Wednesday. “We are discussing strategies on how we can ensure drivers are efficient if the gas shortage drags on,” Hanna said.
Newspaper delivery delays
The Charlotte Observer said Wednesday it’s experiencing delays delivering the printed newspaper because of the local gas shortages.
“Over the next several days, newspapers may be delivered later than normal and in some cases not delivered until the following day. We understand that for many of our subscribers not having a paper in hand is a disruption to your morning routine, but appreciate your patience as we work through these challenges over the next few days,” the company said in an email to readers.
‘Monitoring the situation’
And some companies that rely on delivery drivers said only that they are continuing to monitor the situation.
“Higher gas prices and gas shortages create challenges for anyone, including Dashers in communities impacted,” DoorDash said in a statement to The Observer. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation as it evolves.”
FedEx uses onsite fuel storage, said Rae Lyn Rushing, the company’s communication adviser. “We are communicating frequently with common carriers and mobile fuel vendors to monitor and adapt to potential fuel delivery challenges,” she said.
Buy only what you need
Andy Ellen, president of North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, said he spoke to several grocery stores Tuesday and their wholesalers, including Harris Teeter.
“They are making, or have made, arrangements to access the necessary fuel to continue to supply their stores,” he said.
Food Lion is not experiencing a significant impact of its ability to serve customers, spokesman Matt Harakal said.
Ellen encouraged people to buy only what they need at stores, and at the gas pumps, until the supply of fuel returns to normal.
“Unlike during Hurricane Katrina, there is an ample supply of fuel and it is just a matter of transporting the fuel to North Carolina and other states served by the Colonial Pipeline,” Ellen said.