"And in the Beginning. . . "
We opened the store on Monday, March 4, 1991. It had taken us 4 months to get the space ready, mainly because we had very little money and tried to do as much of the work ourselves or with the help of family and friends. But we were ready in early March and received our first delivery of food and I think we were both very excited. My partner and I had a dry run or soft opening on Saturday and we had a few visits from the people working downtown. Most of them were accountants working the tax season that had offices in the neighborhood. They had seen our “Coming Soon” sign and gave us a little ribbing about the definition of the word “soon”.
By Monday we thought we were all set. The word was the businesses in the area knew we were ready to open and we thought we would have a nice warm reception. It was March and in our area the weather can be a fickle partner. On this particular weekend we were hovering around the freezing mark and it felt like a nice spring breeze was in the air. Anyone from upstate is full well aware this is just a teaser breeze and spring was still off visiting relatives in the south. On Sunday the weather had started to change and the reporters were alluding to some precipitation. Not like they do now with a full 20 minutes of the newscast devoted to every possible description of the worst possible outcome of the forecast models. This is followed by everyone heading to the grocery store to clear off the shelves in case of weather disaster. This seems to happen everywhere with the exception of Buffalo. They are perpetually playing the role of a calmer Lieutenant Dan from “Forrest Gump” telling mother nature “Eh, whatever, I've got other plans.”
Sunday night I tried to go to bed early as I was to be up at 4:30 am but the idea was better than my ability. What I did not notice living in the city was the accumulation of an icy coating on everything in a 20 mile radius. I went to work early and saw that we had some icing in the area, but I was either too nervous to notice or we were just not as affected. After all, the power lines are underground in the city and the store had power. I only lived about a quarter mile from the store so there was little opportunity to witness the devastation. My partner had called early to inform me he wasn't sure if he would make it in but was heading into work. It took him quite a while to make the 20 mile drive. Limbs were down blocking roads, power was out most everywhere, roads were iced over, and trees were still cracking and breaking from the weight of the ice that had built up overnight.
He made it in and we had about 10 customers who also made it to work only to find out the every place of employment was closed. A state of emergency had been placed on the several counties and travel was for emergency only. This didn't feel ominous at the time but two weeks later when things had just started to get back to normal, we felt a little different. We played a lot of darts, stared out our large windows, and spent quite a bit of time on the phone with family and friends trying to assess the damage.
Eight months of planning and four of those months in construction and our first day was memorable for a disaster that still haunts our community. The photos from the event are a dichotomy of Mother Nature’s beauty and strength. Not many storms that cause this much damage will do so and leave such wondrous sights. It is no wonder that my time spent there was a collection of eye raising antics and oddity-filled events. I didn't know it at the time but in hindsight it should have been obvious.