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Florida retailers and suppliers brace for Irma

Published September 7, 2017

MIAMI (BRAIN) — On the heels of flooding and devastation in Texas following Hurricane Harvey, Florida businesses are bracing for what is being forecasted as a Category 5 storm set to hit the state this weekend.

Irma was set to hit Southern Florida by early Sunday, but mandatory evacuations had been issued by Thursday in some parts of Miami-Dade County and public schools in the county were closed Thursday and Friday.

Mack's Cycle & Fitness, one of the Miami area's largest retailers, was closing early Thursday afternoon when BRAIN called. 

"We'll be closed through the weekend and I hope we can re-open Monday or Tuesday depending on how the weekend goes," said Isabella Rojas, a lead salesperson at Mack's. "We are one of the few shops open today. No one is coming in, people are just out getting gas and supplies," she added.

Miami-based distributor J&B Imports was bracing for the worst, said co-CEO Ben Joannou, Jr.

"We're making all kinds of arrangements to make it through the pending storm," Joannou said. "J&B was wiped out 25 years ago with Hurricane Andrew. It blew through South Florida and left us with no roof and only three walls at our corporate headquarters. This storm is bigger and stronger than Andrew. We're definitely concerned and doing all we can to batten down the hatches and make arrangements for operations to continue. We'll know more Monday morning."

J&B planned to be open as usual Thursday and Friday, although Joannou said truck companies will not be picking up or delivering in the area on Friday. "But we'll be here at our headquarters to support other warehouses around the country. They will be shipping as normal," he said.

He said if Irma heavily damages the Miami warehouse and headquarters, the company plans to immediately move its headquarters to its facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He said it took six months to rebuild the Miami warehouse after Hurricane Andrew.

He said some employees have already left to prepare their homes for the storm. "A lot of people won't come in Friday. Hopefully we'll have a place for them to come to Monday," he said.

At Miami Beach Cycle Center, just three blocks from the ocean, owner Alex Ruiz said he planned to stay open Thursday and maybe Friday.

"We're starting to make preparations now," he said. He said he expected the store's impact-resistant windows to withstand Irma, but the store was putting out sand bags to protect from floods, removing letters from an exterior sign and getting merchandise up off the floors.

"We've never been in the face of such a powerful storm so we don't know what will happen," he said.

Ruiz said he didn't plan to leave his home during the storm.

"We're staying here. The house is all boarded up. I don't like to leave; our life is here. There are no guarantees that wherever we would go the storm is not going to follow us," he said. "We're going to bunker down and hopefully we can clean up afterwards and get going again."

Fusion Pro Bike Shop on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami emailed its customers that it would be closed Thursday until further notice. 

Cycle World in Miami, a Trek and Giant dealer, said it intended to close at 2 p.m. Thursday, and that it would remain closed throughout the weekend, reopening Monday.

A customer alert on Mack Cycle's Facebook page.

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