Nov. 28--When The General Store in north Spokane lost power in the recent windstorm, general manager Jon Evans said they knew people would be depending on them to survive the extended outage.
"I said, we can't close," he said. "What are people going to do?"
The business posted on Facebook that they were open for limited business and customers came. Each had to be escorted by flashlight as people shopped for propane, lamp oil, flashlights and batteries. No power meant no credit card machines, so it was a cash only business.
Evans said the store quickly instituted a rule of three propane bottles per customer so there would be enough to go around. Some customers were unhappy with the limit, but Evans said he was afraid that one person would buy them all and then resell them on Craigslist for obscene prices.
"I probably got cussed out five or six times," Evans said.
The store quickly sold out of generators. More were ordered from an emergency supplier, but Evans said that supplier charged retail prices for them, not wholesale.
That meant the store only made $12 on each generator, but Evans said he stood by the principle that everything would be sold for the same price that it was before the storm and refused to charge more.
"We didn't mark up one item," he said.
The store kept customers up-to-date through Facebook, and Evans said he was getting about 50 messages a day from people wanting to know if the store was open and if they had specific items. The store got in extra shipments of supplies during the outage, but items like generators and extension cords kept selling out.
But even though the store was busy with people looking for emergency supplies, Evans said the storm was disastrous for the store's bottom line.
"This time of year you sell a lot of winter coats," Evans said. "Coats can be $150. A bottle of propane is $3."
The lights at The General Store came back on the morning of Nov. 22. The shelves were restocked, and the aisles were bustling on Saturday as people got back to their normal routine.
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