The Boris Brothers’ Perry, FL location after Hurricane Idalia.

As a Florida business owner, Retail Partner Mike Boris has seen his fair share of hurricanes. But as Hurricane Idalia turned toward the Big Bend region, the urgency increased. Three of the Boris Brothers’ six stores (Perry, Chiefland and Cross City) were in the storm’s crosshairs, with other inland stores also facing high wind and flood risks. It was clear the team would need to work together to manage risk. Leadership created connectivity from the start—involving Team Members, field support and the Distribution Center with a steady flow of information.

“We used team messaging to keep everyone abreast of what’s happening,” Boris said. “We also used that communication to capture special needs at each store.” Among those needs was a request to their Plant City Distribution Center team for additional water to sell leading up to the storm to help families stock up. “We requested water trucks the day before the storm. A lot of times we won’t be able to get the additional product, but the DC team had it to everyone within four hours. It was amazing they took care of it so soon.”

For Vencot “Vinny” Watson, Director of Distribution, and Matt McCarter, Logistics Manager, the team at Plant City was ready to support immediately. Like the Boris Brothers team, Watson noted that communication from the start was critical to preparing for and responding to the storm. “We had the crisis team engaged right away, having daily calls, watching the cone and its location,” Watson said. “It was important to have a good game plan and keep all parties informed.”

Mike and Josh Borris clean up the Perry location following Hurricane Idalia.

“We keep an inventory of ‘hurricane water’ that we can go into our reserves and start shipping,” McCarter said. “We shipped 510 additional pallets of water over normal.”

While the additional water inventory helped ensure stores could meet customer needs before the storm, the Boris Brothers’ team was also working together to prepare the stores at most risk. They prepped each facility, removing potential debris from parking lots and wrapping up sales before the storm hit to allow the team time to get home—or to a shelter—safely.

A Haven for Employees

For at least one assistant manager, Lynette Barton, safety during the storm came in the form of sheltering at the Chiefland store. Worried that her nearby home, close to the Suwanee River, wouldn’t provide safe shelter through the storm, she asked Boris if she and her family could stay overnight at the store. Without hesitation Boris told her, “By all means.”

Armed with air mattresses, blankets, TVs, movies, games and even an electric griddle, Barton and her family hunkered down in the store.  “It was like camping out at Save A Lot,” she said.  

To help pass the time while they waited out the storm, Barton and her family worked. Her son, daughter and son–in-law all pitched in. They blocked, set out the week’s price changes and did what they could to ensure the store would be ready for customers the next day. Despite losing power a few times during the night, Barton and her family were safe during the storm. When the Thursday morning manager arrived at 8 a.m. the next day, they were impressed by the work Barton and her family did to help customers.

Barton credits the generosity of the Boris family as one of the many reasons she and her family worked so hard while staying there overnight. “I love working for them, they are good people,” she said.

Supporting Stores After the Storm

As the storm passed and retailers began to evaluate the impact, the Plant City DC sprang into action. With the DC closed on the day of the storm, they faced a backup of deliveries to restock and serve their 103 stores.

“We were back in the DC by 4 p.m. on Wednesday to allow for as many inbound deliveries as possible to help us serve stores through the end of the week,” Watson said. “We started planning immediately to get our full schedule recovered by Saturday.”

The team compressed their schedule, moving deliveries up and squeezing a day and a half’s worth of deliveries into both Thursday and Friday.

Another challenge: supporting stores with power losses.

Four of the Boris Brother’s six stores suffered significant power loss that led to losses in business and sales. The town of Perry was among one of the hardest hit communities, and the store was without power for four days.

To help, the DC team sent a refrigerated trailer to Perry and dry ice to other impacted stores to help salvage as much product as possible until stores could get back online.

ABCs Linda Troutman and Shane Price help clean up the Perry, FL location following Hurricane Idalia.

In Person Support from Field Team

Meanwhile the Save A Lot field team was working to provide on-the-ground support. Area Business Consultant Linda Troutman, who is based in North Carolina but supports the northern Florida Retail Partners, canceled her weekend plans and drove down to assist the Boris team with cleanup in the Perry store.  “They are my work family,” Troutman said. “When something devastating happens, it’s like it’s your brother or mother. You want to get down there as quickly as you can for whatever they need.”

Troutman and fellow ABCs Shane Price and Felice Dipietrantonio were on hand to help, removing spoiled perishables using light from headlamps to navigate the dark store since the power was out. She also helped that weekend to donate a truckload of bottled water from Save A Lot to Perry customers.

“I wouldn’t trade working the Labor Day holiday for anything else,” she said.

Lessons Learned

In the end, teamwork across the network and careful planning helped mitigate a potential crisis, minimizing loss and impact and allowing stores to return to business as quickly as possible.

For Watson, a takeaway was to ensure the DC team is ready for a range of possible scenarios. “Our key learning this time was that we needed two plans—a worst-case and a best-case scenario that would enable us to respond even faster if needed.”

“We did a great job delivering beyond expectations, but every storm is different,” said McCarter. “You learn something every single storm.”

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