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Eastern Seaboard Retailers Brace for Irene

Published August 25, 2011

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (BRAIN)—While Hurricane Irene bears down on the Eastern seaboard many retailers are already bracing for its impact—and not just the possible physical toll.

“We’re estimated to lose about $100,000 in business,” said David Conte of Conte’s Bicycles and Fitness Equipment in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “This is typically one of our busiest weekends of the year.” The other, he said, is Labor Day Weekend.

What makes this weekend one of the busiest is the annual East Coast Surfing Championships that take place in Virginia Beach. While the competition hasn’t been cancelled Conte said people are staying away, when usually they’re frequenting his shop in the days leading up to the event.

Maximum sustained winds were at 115 mph (category 3) as Irene continues to work its way northwest to the East Coast, expecting to make landfall sometime tonight. And if Irene continues on its current projected path up the Eastern seaboard “from a flooding perspective, this could be a hundred-year event,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has declared a state of emergency.

For Shawn Spencer, owner of Bike Cycles in coastal Wilmington, North Carolina, hurricanes are nothing new. In fact, Spencer and his shop came up with the “Hurricane Fran Plan” in 1996, in response to all the beach cruisers that needed to be stripped down and rid of salt due to the flooding. If there’s flooding this time around, they might just enact a similar plan, Spencer said.

“We’ve already had a good amount of people getting their bikes serviced,” Spencer said. “A bicycle is the best way to get around” when there’s flooding.

Other than the typical precautionary measures like sandbags, Spencer’s biggest problem is trying to keep his employees in the store. Why? Surf’s up, Spencer said.

—Jason Norman

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