AKRON—For the past week, Jimmy Reese's work days at Colony Tire Corp. have involved driving his pickup an hour and a half through water 3 feet deep to get to work, even though his home is 10 minutes away from the store. As manager of the dealership's Greenville, N.C., store, Mr. Reese has been operating the commercial/retail/wholesale outlet with his wife and one employee since more than 20 inches of rain from Hurricane Floyd soaked the region Sept. 16. Thirteen inches alone fell within a 24-hour period.
Floodwaters from the swollen Tar River have overflowed the roads that Colony Tire's 12 other employees would use to arrive at work. The river crested at 24 feet above flood stage.
Mr. Reese can't contact all of them because phones are out, but he doesn't expect many of them to come in anytime soon.
One worker lived in an area where authorities have reported 15 deaths and complete destruction, he said.
``We've had employees that have lost everything they own, and their priority right now is to contact FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and get back to their houses to see if their animals are alive,'' he said.
In Tarboro, just northwest of Greenville, Blackwell's Tire Inc. opened for business Sept. 20 after evacuating workers and customers at lunchtime on Sept. 17. But the store is functioning without running water, said salesman Danny Hawkins. The store is located three miles away from downtown, where some of the worst flooding has occurred.
``If you stood in our store, you wouldn't know there's anything going on,'' Mr. Hawkins said. ``We've fared pretty good.''
Colony Tire in Greenville closed its doors on Sept. 16, the day Floyd struck the state, but reopened two days later for business when electricity was restored. The store also is without running water.
The store, one of 22 locations owned by Edenton, N.C.-based Colony Tire, is situated on high ground with a sloped parking lot and has escaped damage, Mr. Reese said.
Still, the eight-bay store has seen ``very few'' customers, and Mr. Reese expects to lose $220,000 in sales for the month. Normally, sales in September at the location are about $340,000. The only customers Colony Tire can serve are those residing in northern Greenville, because all other major routes are impassable.
``Most of the people are coming in to get a drink, bum a cigarette, or get a cup of coffee,'' he said.
Mr. Reese also thinks the store has lost a $100,000 service truck because the vehicle was with an employee who lost his home when the rains arrived.
``We don't know what shape (the truck's) in, but if it's like his house, it's under water,'' Mr. Reese said.
He plans to keep the store open, even though he thinks business disruptions may continue for up to 90 days, because the company's philosophy is: ``If the roof don't fly off and you can wade in to work, you come in.''
Elsewhere in North Carolina, many dealers experienced temporary power outages or tire supply disruptions, said Bob Smith, executive vice president of the North Carolina Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association.
Dealers in Wilmington couldn't receive tire deliveries for about three days, while at press time, Sept. 23, deliveries to Greenville remained cut off, Mr. Smith said.
One Wilmington dealer, Bill Browning, owner of Browning Tire Town, closed his four-bay tire and auto store for a day and a half, but has been bustling with customers since reopening Sept. 17. He told Tire Business he expects to make up for all lost sales by the end of the month.
Browning Tire Town escaped water damage, but the single-location dealership has experienced slower tire deliveries, Mr. Browning said. He said his biggest concern is that cresting rivers may again isolate Wilmington from the outside world.
The flooding put two NCTDRA members out of business: Fred Hornes, owner of Rocky Mount Tire in Rocky Mount; and Ray Hill, owner of The Tire & Muffler Center in Goldsboro, Mr. Smith said. Nine feet of water flooded Rocky Mount Tire and 6 feet flooded the Goldsboro store.
Up the coast in Bound Brook, N.J., flooding temporarily shut down Somerset Tire Service Inc.'s corporate headquarters Sept. 17, but volunteers from the company's retail stores came to help with cleanup efforts, an STS spokesman said.
The firm used its own electric generators to power its computers until electricity was restored Sept. 21, the spokesman said. The disruptions haven't prevented STS from handling billing and other business functions.
``I wouldn't say it's been business as usual, but as far as the retail customer is concerned, things are normal,'' the spokesman said.
One or two STS stores in northern New Jersey reportedly are flooded, but the spokesman couldn't release details. The rest of the company's 67 stores have experienced no damage or service interruptions, he said.