Just about every small business goes through hard times. Retailers in the Northeast struck by Hurricane Sandy had an especially rough fall this year. They might be interested in the story of this car stereo shop.
Mobile-One in Metaire, LA had 5 car audio stores that were either flooded during Hurricane Katrina or looted. That was August in 2005.
Owner Paul Campo found one of his stores under 6 to 8 feet of water. People in the area weren’t thinking about car stereo. The basics, like water and gasoline and a place to live were taking up everyone’s energy.
But Campo moved fast and his was one of the first car audio stores to reopen by mid-September, even before Best Buy managed to reopen. “I would go to work in the morning. I had to go a long way around so I’d leave at 4 am and my wife’s sole responsibility was to find gasoline to keep the generators running. We were without power for 45 days.”
Things we take for granted became pressing problems. “I was trying desperately to keep [my] employees from moving and leaving the area to preserve the business’ existence. Much of our customer base, nearly 200,000 people relocated from the area…”
Campo reopened 4 of the 5 stores and then something unexpected happened. There was a surge in business as people began to receive government subsidies and insurance money.
“Think about it; how many cars got destroyed. Everybody was replacing vehicles; getting new ones and upgrading equipment,” said Campo. There was pent up demand and we ended up making up all the business we lost and then some.”
New business came in for a year and a half after the storm as people returned to the area with their insurance checks.
They bought car security, window tinting, rear seat video… everything. There were a lot of construction trucks in the area that came in for window tinting, and even bob cats used on building sites bought window film.
Campo said, “I never anticipated the business would spike the way it did… In those first few weeks the despair of people… there was no fast food, the grocery stores lost all their inventory.”
As consumers needed to rebuild, Campo, whose family had run appliance stores in the past, also opened an appliance store by November and benefited from the rebuilding of the city.
By 2007, as the recession began to take hold the big gains trailed off.
But for those suffering from the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it might be comforting to know that overall, Mobile-One came out ahead in sales of car audio after the storm.
Campo said he is still humbled from the destruction.. “People don’t get how those fundamental small things are important—safety, food and shelter.”
Hopefully this Thanksgiving finds you with a roof over your head and family or friends to share a turkey dinner. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!