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BusINess » Business » Blizzard shutters many NWI businesses

Blizzard shutters many NWI businesses

Meijer gas station employee Felicia Simpson, of Gary, was the only employee at the Highland station about 6 a.m. Wednesday. She had been working since 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and expected to work a double shift after two employees said they could not make it in to work due to the weather. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times.)

Meijer gas station employee Felicia Simpson, of Gary, was the only employee at the Highland station about 6 a.m. Wednesday. She had been working since 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and expected to work a double shift after two employees said they could not make it in to work due to the weather. (Photograph by Jonathan Miano/The Times.)

Many local businesses took the day off Wednesday due to blustery winds, heavy snow and poor road conditions.

Westfield Southlake mall in Hobart closed, as did its anchor stores.

Most professional offices, banks and fast food restaurants were closed along Calumet Avenue in Munster. However, a few gas stations remained open Wednesday.

Sheila Vaughan, of Dyer, would have been the sole employee at an ExxonMobil station in Lansing if she hadn’t received a ride to work. Her car was snowed in, but she was able to get to work before 8 a.m.

“I’m working alone but to tell you the truth, I like it,” Vaughan said. “The customers are happy. I’m happy. We’re making it work.”

Stopping for a bite to eat at the Lansing station was Kevin Loughlin, of Crete. Loughlin, who came to the station on a snowmobile, said conditions Tuesday night were perfect to take his snowmobile for rides. Last night took him through Will County and southern Lake County.

But he said he wasn’t just out for fun. He said he helped get about a half-dozen vehicles out of ditches.

Loughlin said this type of weather brings out the best in people because they are willing to help their neighbors or strangers without being asked.

A manager from Ultra Foods in Highland said the store likely would close early Wednesday after opening at 6 a.m., but as of Wednesday afternoon, a decision hadn’t been made on whether it would open as scheduled Thursday.

A representative could not be immediately be reached Wednesday at the corporate office of Ultra Food parent Strack & Van Til.

Meijer grocery store in Highland remained open around the clock through the blizzard and the aftermath.

Only three of five WiseWay Foods locations were open Wednesday, but indicated they may close early because of staffing. A representative at the grocery chain’s Merrillville corporate office said all Northwest Indiana are expected to be open Thursday, but staffing will remain a concern.

Two of the four region casinos—Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and Majestic Star Casino in Gary—were closed Wednesday, but planned to open Thursday morning. Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City and Ameristar Casino in East Chicago remained open.

Chris Nelson, assistant manager of service at Munster Marathon, said the station was working with a skeleton crew, selling gas and offering only emergency car services.

Nelson said the station was only seeing 10 to 20 percent of its usual gas sales Wednesday, and 5 percent of its usual car service business.

“I can’t say that I’ve seen anything like this, as far as snowstorms go,” Nelson said. “This is worse than the ‘99 storm. At least that one stopped and didn’t continue on to the next day.”

Times Business Editor Matt Saltanovitz contributed to this report.

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