Local businesses are feeling the pressure of Hurricane Dorian before it has even hit.
As the Category 4 hurricane approaches, tree and lawn maintenance businesses are receiving an immense number of requests for services such as tree removal in anticipation of the storm, according to Mance Giles, owner of Mr. Tree and Lawn Service.
The increased number of calls has been good for business but means working longer hours to match the growing demand for tree-cutting services. In order to fulfill these requests and in preparation for the extra work the storm will bring, Giles and his employees will work 14-hour days, seven days a week — possibly for the next few months, Giles said.
“We work nonstop, but we’re just happy to be able to help people in the community,” he said.
Unlike Giles, who has 12 employees, Kyle Coker is the owner and only employee of Always Clean and Clear Pool Care. He’s taking on the aftermath of the hurricane alone.
Coker has experienced enough hurricanes in his life to know what damage to expect from the storm and how to handle it. If the hurricane hits hard, he could be spending the next month clearing and rebalancing pools.
The physical turnaround isn’t what worries him the most.
In Coker’s experience, his customers are less likely to pay their bills that are due in the middle of September until they know they are financially stable enough to do so after recovering from the hurricane.
If his customers are unable to pay their bills because of the storm, Coker said he will be forced to find a balance between paying his bills, ensuring his family’s security and buying the chemicals that will allow him to restore his customers’ pools and keep his business afloat.
“What could happen to my business is what keeps me up at night because the money I got last month isn’t guaranteed this month,” Coker said.
Additionally, Coker will have to find a way to balance the needs of his customers based on the extent of cleanup required. If he is unable to reach everyone quickly, he risks losing their business.
“It’s a song, dance and game to make everyone happy, but you have to accept the fact that you can’t please everyone,” he said.
In order to prioritize customers’ needs and keep them happy, businesses need to be able to fuel their vehicles. That became difficult by midweek due to a shortage of gas in the Gainesville area.
Jonathan Mitchell, owner of LawnMore Gainesville, managed to find some gas to fuel the cleanup process but is still concerned about the decreasing availability of this resource.
“I had to go looking for fuel at two in the morning,” Mitchell said, “because all the stations are backed up during the day.”