The week-long winter storm is leaving some Portland-area businesses in financial distress

The week-long winter storm is leaving some Portland-area businesses in financial distress

At least once a week, someone from West Linn Sushi Kuni makes a trip to Seattle to buy fresh fish and imported seafood. Owner Agatha Chan said she took a risk this week and headed north during a winter storm to get an order this week.

“We have already paid for the order and cannot stop the shipment from Japan,” she said. “It’s very dangerous, but we had to pick it up because we paid a broker to clear customs and the fish is at the airport.”

However, the tarmac roads made it nearly impossible for Chan’s 15 employees to get to work, and without employees, she couldn’t run the restaurant. Most of the fish will go to waste.

For Chan, who started the restaurant in July 2022, closing the restaurant for a week represents “a huge financial strain.”

Sushi Kone, the new West Lane restaurant, is located at 21450 Salamo Road. It is closed most days of the week during the parade of winter storms.

“I’m suffering so much right now,” she said. “With no income for the past week, how will I pay bills, rent and workers’ salaries?”

Thousands of businesses lost sales during the week of snow and ice, exacerbated by power outages that led to closures and destroyed inventory. (In addition, many suffered storm damage, including burst pipes.) Some, such as grocery stores, may see little impact on their bottom lines, as customers who still need to eat food stored before the storm will replenish their pantries after that.

Others, like Chan’s Restaurant, will be lucky to see any bump after the storm, let alone make up for lost sales during the week-long closure.

The businesses that tend to be hurt the most during severe winter weather events are restaurants and small businesses that sell non-essential consumer goods, such as clothing and other gifts, said Todd Roberge, a Lake Oswego-based senior partner and retail and consumer goods analyst at consulting firm Simpactful.

“Restaurants are the worst because you usually don’t eat more when things go back to normal,” Roberge said. “So those lost sales during the event period tend to be completely lost. You won’t get any back.”

Likewise, small clothing stores rely on steady traffic for sales, but they also don’t have the same resources or workforce as larger retailers when there are weather surprises.

“It’s the small businesses that are hurting the most. You know, where they pay employees by the hour,” he said.

January and February are typically slower months for many companies, Roberge said. A weak January could mean some retailers will have to discount early to get rid of inventory, he said.

That’s what Sadie Cifuentes, a florist who owns Quad’s Garden Flower Shop in Fairview, is facing now. Her store has been closed since last Saturday, and last night she put all of her perishable inventory – such as fresh cut flowers – on sale in hopes of attracting some sales but also to make room for other needed inventory.

Cifuentes said she had to cancel all of her flower delivery orders due to road conditions, and events she was going to bring flowers to were cancelled. She said she lost so much money ordering flowers for a funeral that was postponed to next week, she had to throw them away and will have to re-arrange them next week.

“Our income from the store supports my house, my parents’ house and one store’s bills,” Sifuentes said. “During the coronavirus, we restructured our business and learned different ways to generate income, but when you have snow and ice like this, it inhibits everything.”

Cifuentes said she was preparing to get her store ready for Valentine’s Day, but now she’s concerned about the possibility of another winter weather event in February like last year.

“If this had happened during Valentine’s week, we would have lost a lot in terms of numbers. Think about how much roses cost at wholesale these days, and how much we would have to store and hope to sell,” she said. “You don’t even know what’s going to happen with the weather anymore.” “

– Christine de Leon; kdeleon@oregonian.com

January winter storm

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