Norman businesses look to rebound after winter storms

Jeff Elkins, The Norman Transcript, Okla.
·4 min read

Feb. 21—Many Norman businesses are once again operational after multiple waves of winter weather prompted closures last week.

Snowfall totals exceeded 9 inches across much of the Oklahoma City metro area this week, combining with record-breaking cold to keep Norman residents in their homes and businesses closed for much of the past week.

Gina Mitchell, co-owner of Mitchell's Jewelry, said due to the snow, her store was not open on Valentine's Day, a holiday on which jewelry stores can expect a surge in business.

"We had every intention of being open on Sunday, but of course we were not able to do that, mainly because we were looking out for the safety of our employees," Mitchell said. "Then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we did not open because many people were worried about their pipes bursting and rolling blackouts, so we felt like for the safety of everyone that it was best to not go in."

Mitchell said the store resumed operations Thursday, and intends for things to get back to normal as temperatures return to above freezing.

"[My husband] had someone come in and plow our parking lot so it's easy to get around," Mitchell said. "Neighborhood streets were pretty bad all week, but I-35 traffic is moving nicely and Robinson Street is perfect."

Rebecca Bean, owner of STASH on Main Street, said she closed her store on Valentine's Day afternoon as the snow started to fall so the employees could get home safely.

"[Friday was] our first day to reopen. Our parking lot out in front of the shop needed to be plowed," Bean said.

Bean said that when she arrived at the store Thursday, she found a pipe had burst around the time she showed up.

"We were able to stop the damage from spreading," Bean said. "I can only imagine how bad it would have been if we didn't get there just at the right time."

Bean said losing sales on a holiday like Valentine's Day was a substantial financial blow to the gift shop.

"We rely on consistent sales and for big days to carry us through the slower times," Bean said. "We're currently down about 30% for the month of February. Before the storm, we were up 20% over February of last year, so this weather was a big financial hit."

Alex Khouri, manager at La Baguette in Norman, said the bistro was closed Sunday through Wednesday. He said it was unfortunate that the first wave of winter weather fell on Valentine's Day, a holiday known for chocolates.

Shelley Hall, owner of Shell Belle's Bakery on Campus Corner, said her business was closed through Thursday. The possibility of power outages was a concern for the integrity of the machinery used to make the food and beverages at the shop.

"I couldn't risk having my machines running, then lose power, because it could damage my espresso machine," Hall said. "The roads weren't too bad to get out on, but I was like, 'I'm not going to risk damaging anything,' so I told my employees we were not going to open."

Hall said business has been slow during the week so she wasn't worried about opening back up quickly, but wanted to be open for the weekend. She said the bakery was ready to open by Thursday, but she wanted to wait for the snow on the streets to thaw.

"I had my 13-year-old son do some shoveling on the lot behind the shop, so it's one less thing my landlord has to worry about," Hall said.

Like Mitchell's Jewelry and La Baguette, Shelley Cox, CEO of Cayman's Clothiers, said her shop opened up Thursday after four days of closure.

"So much of it is obviously the amount of snow that we received, but it also has a lot to do with the freezing temperatures, which have been a big issue," Cox said.

Cox said Carriage Plaza was clear by Thursday, and ownership has done a thorough job of maintaining it.

"The city also did a nice job of getting the streets back to driving condition," Cox said. "Now we just need everybody to get back and rock-and-roll."

Bean said while the store's situation is tough, STASH has always had the support from the community.

"We're relieved that the worst of this weather is behind us and are excited to be open again," Bean said.

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at Jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.