Flush with snow supplies, hardware stores need workers

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Hardware stores can be the types of stores you can forget about at times …

Bags of road salt lie on pallets.

Eli McKown

Salt remains stocked at Great Lakes Ace Hardware store.

Until a crisis hits.

Ingham County was slammed with snow beginning Wednesday morning and throughout the entire day. Warnings of the impending storm came days before, leading to people panicking and looking for supplies. For hardware stores carrying the essentials like shovels, salt, snowblowers and more — this is what they wait for all year long.

Stores like Great Lakes Ace Hardware in the Frandor shopping center were ready for this and were not shorthanded.

“We were ready from the get-go,” said Jamie Gebhart, manager of Great Lakes Ace Hardware. “We got a huge shipment of shovels in late November. We’ve been getting rock salt and snow melt throughout the last three months pretty consistently. Our snowblowers have been coming in on a regular basis, too — we sold three today.”

This was true for many hardware stores which were well-stocked ahead of the storm, even with the ongoing supply chain issues.

“Everywhere is short on stuff with the supply chain issues going on,” Dwayne Morse, a worker at Gilbert’s Hardware and Rental in DeWitt, said. “In terms of this immediate scenario we are pretty well stocked in the necessities you would need to go out and clear your driveway or clear your parking lots.”

Great Lakes Ace Hardware, in addition to selling three snowblowers the day of the storm, still had plenty of salt and other snow day necessities on hand on Wednesday.

“We are full of rock salt, snow melt, we have snowblowers here, we have shovels coming out of our ears and we have brushes and scrapers out our ears.”

Jamie Gebhart, manager of Great Lakes ACE Hardware

County residents seemed ready for this one, as many got out ahead of the storm to get supplies for the first big snow of the winter.

“It seemed like a lot of people were aware of it, and a lot of them jumped out early to get ahead of it before it actually came down,” said Darian Fisher, general manager of the Menards in the southern part of Lansing, said.

Foot traffic remained steady in the days leading up to the storm as people saw the warnings and forecasts days ahead of the storm arriving. 

“We sold a lot of snow shovels and we’ve actually sold a lot of salt,” Gebhart said. “We’ve been pretty steady the last few days.”

That wasn’t the case for every town, however. In DeWitt, many people waited until the last second to buy supplies.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever been in DeWitt, but the people here don’t like doing stuff until the very last minute or until after it happens,” Morse said. “It was more of a panic today even though they knew that this was going to happen.”

Last minute must have meant last night before the storm hit, right? Think again. Many folks lined up early this morning, hours after the storm began, to get their essentials.

“We had people waiting at our door for us when we opened at 8 a.m.,” Morse said. “Immediately people resonated over the salt for their driveway or for the sidewalk as well as shovels.”

One of the major issues for hardware stores and businesses in Ingham County was workers arriving safely. At Great Lakes Ace Hardware, two members could not make it into work . While Gilbert’s Hardware and Rental only had delays in arrivals for work, Menards had a number of team members not make it in.

“We had a nice amount of team members call off due to the snowstorm and the road being bad,” Fisher said.

Menards, in addition to Gilbert’s Hardware and Rental and Great Lakes Ace Hardware, were still business as usual despite the snow preventing or slowing employees and were able to serve their community in the first snowstorm of 2022.

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