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LI snowstorm hurts some retail businesses more than others

Sal Gerzasi, the owner of Babylon Bean, a

Sal Gerzasi, the owner of Babylon Bean, a coffee house, called Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, "a lost day" because of the snowstorm. This is the menu board on Nov. 11, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Lauren R. Harrison

The snowstorm that is blowing through Long Island on Thursday is costing the Long Island retail economy about 25 percent of its daily business, an expert said.

“Coffee shops and restaurants will lose money, and they won’t get it back,” said Marshal Cohen, senior retail analyst with the NPD Group, a Port Washington market research company.

For most of the retail economy, however, the storm is less burdensome, Cohen said, because purchases can be deferred, or even accelerated.

“If I need a new pair of pants, I need a new pair of pants,” Cohen said. “I can buy it tomorrow.”

Home improvement stores may benefit from the storm, said Herman A. Berliner, an economist and the dean of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University.

“They will have the ice melt and shovels prominently displayed,” Berliner said. “They will do a brisk business in snow-related items.”

But delis, bagel stores, pizzerias and other eateries are less fortunate, said Francesca Carlow, the president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, which represents 49 individual business chambers.

She said many small food establishments depend on the lucrative lunch crowd to hit daily goals.

“The lunch crowd is not coming out, it’s right in the middle of the storm,” Carlow said. “It’s very quiet.”

Ralph Galdorisi, owner of Plainview-based Coliseum Caterers, said he had 40 catering jobs scheduled for Thursday, but only one came through.

“We proactively called everyone yesterday to see if they were canceling,” Galdorisi said Thursday. “We had the opportunity loss, but not the product lost.”

Sal Gerzasi, the owner of Babylon Bean, a coffee house, called Thursday “a lost day.”

He said that because most Babylon Village businesses are closed, hundreds of potential customers are not around.

“You hope you can recoup it on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Gerzasi said. “Long term, this isn’t a big issue. We’ve been blessed this winter. We made it through December, January and part of February before we had a day like this, so I’m not complaining.”

Babylon Bean is fortunate that it doesn’t depend entirely on a business clientele, said Meghan McPherson, assistant director of the Center for Health Innovation at Adelphi University.

“If you’re near a corporate park or a court house, and you’re depending on weekday sales, you’re being” hurt disproportionately, she said.

Restaurants are more prone to feeling a financial squeeze, according to a recent JPMorgan Chase & Co. study of its 597,000 small business customers. The New York-based bank said restaurants had cash reserves to last an average of just 16 days, the smallest of any business group. About half the businesses surveyed had cash reserves to last 27 days.

Meanwhile, online businesses will take advantage of the storm, Berliner said.

“I bet it’s a good day in this area for Amazon and other online retailers,” he said. “People are at home, and they’re online. Many of them will be shopping.”

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