Convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, motels are benefiting from storm
Bee County merchants did brisk business Wednesday, thanks to Hurricane Ike.
Merchants countywide sold plenty of fuel and food to weary travelers, as well as local residents hoping to stock up on supplies and gas while they can.
“We had one lady come in here and buy three cases of water,” recalled Bret Ashley, a cashier at the Stripes convenience store on North St. Mary’s Street. “We had more people than usual stop in and get gas and food, more people than we usually have.”
Trucks pulling travel trailers and boats streamed down U. S. Highway 181 Wednesday night as residents fled the coastal communities of Port Aransas, Rockport, Portland and Aransas Pass.
Hundreds more fled coastal communities further north on the Texas Gulf Coast, including Port Lavaca, Victoria, Palacios and Refugio. Many of those people traveled west on Highway 77 through Beeville.
Many of them stopped at the Pantry East convenience store for a fill-up or a meal.
Major food stores, such as Wal-Mart Supercenter and H-E-B, as well as Dollar General, American Dollar and other retailers, also did brisk business Wednesday and early Thursday as local residents stocked up on food, fuel and other items they would need to wait out a hurricane.
Employees at both McDonald’s restaurants in Beeville worked feverishly Wednesday to keep up with orders.
“We were really busy,” said Laura Gomez, manager of the McDonald’s on North St. Mary’s St. “A lot of the bus drivers, ambulance drivers and tanker truck drivers were stopping to eat.”
Dairy Queens in Skidmore and Pettus had lines of cars idling at their drive-thru windows Wednesday evening.
Pappa’s Market also had motorists waiting in line for fuel well into Wednesday evening.
Pizza restaurants in town also did booming business on Wednesday.
“Wednesday was a good day for us,” said Mary Garcia, manager of the Domino’s in Beeville. “I appreciate the business, I really do. I just wish I didn’t have to get it this way — from people running from the hurricane.”
Business died down some on Thursday once forecasters announced the fierce hurricane was heading north toward Houston.
People fleeing the coming storm, as well as people coming to Coastal Bend to help move people out of the way of Hurricane Ike, filled motels in Beeville this week.
At the Motel 6, the rooms were full with evacuees from Port Lavaca, Houston and areas between.
Remodeling at the motel has decreased the number of rooms available, said Roger Harilal, a desk clerk at the motel.
Most have reservations to stay through the weekend.
“Some might end up checking out early,” he said.
It isn’t just the evacuees that are filling the rooms in Beeville.
Kimberley Hamilton, desk clerk at the Best Western, said that many of their customers are emergency personnel called in to help.
“It is not all evacuees,” she said. “A lot of it is first responders, bus drivers and state troopers,” she said.
As of Thursday afternoon, all of the rooms were full but Hamilton said that could change as the hurricane makes its way north.
Hamilton sounded a bit frazzled as she spoke.
“It is all pretty nerve racking,” she said. “The main thing is dealing with people in a panic. They are frustrated. They are tired....
“You try to calm them down. You try to get them in a room and do what you can for them.”
Hamilton said that most of the motels are in the same condition as Best Western.
“I called all the local ones yesterday and most of them were full,” she said. “There were some of them not taking reservations – only walk-ins.
“What I have heard is most everything from here to San Antonio to Austin is full because everybody is running.”