Columbia businesses thaw after big freeze

Friday, February 4, 2011 | 6:49 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Sycamore co-owner Sanford Speake described in one word the impact of the recent winter storm on business — "Devastating."

Like much of The District, Sycamore was closed Tuesday and Wednesday because 17.7 inches of snow fell on Columbia. Sophia's on Providence Road also took a hit because the weather.

"We closed Tuesday and Wednesday for the safety of our employees," Sophia's co-owner Jeremy Brown said. "Ninety percent of our staff wasn't able to drive here."

The combination of the cold weather, snow-covered sidewalks and 2- to 3-foot tall snow piles in the middle of the streets hurt Sycamore.

Speake said Sycamore received 21 customers at lunch Thursday, less than half of the average amount. For dinner, the restaurant had 50 customers, which is reasonable in range, but customers spent two-thirds less than usual, according to Speake.

Because Sycamore buys its food from 15 to 20 local farmers, ranchers and scavengers, there wasn't concern about food trucks stalling on I-70. "We knew the storm was coming and ordered accordingly," Speake said.

Sophia's attendance on Thursday was fairly typical. "Many people came out to escape cabin fever," Brown said. "Hopefully more people will decide to come out this weekend."

Brown said Sophia's had to postpone food shipments, but they ordered enough ahead of time until the next shipment arrived. They also took the pending weather into account and ordered less food to reduce the risk of waste.

Speake and Brown share similar viewpoints about moving forward since the storm passed.

"You can't [recover] in the sense that we'll never get those days back," Brown said.

Speake said, "You just hope to regain your business."

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