Business & Finance

In New Brunswick, Snow Disrupts Business as Usual

This file photo from 2011 shows crews clearing snow outside New Brunswick's Roosevelt Elementary School.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Today is a rough one for the city’s two Hidden Grounds coffeeshops.

Thanks to a messy snowstorm and Rutgers students leaving town for spring break, business is down roughly 80 percent from normal, co-owner Anand Patel told TAPinto New Brunswick. Both Easton Avenue locations opened a few hours later and will close early, at 6 p.m.

“It’s very tough,” he said. “They people who are coming—they’re making sure that they stay here if they’re going to make the trek to come out here. It is a little bit of a hassle.”

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But Hidden Grounds has one thing on many New Brunswick businesses today: It’s open.

Despite forecasts calling for nearly two feet of snow, accumulations as of 8:30 a.m. totaled just 3.5 inches, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service’s office in Mount Holly. Another measurement recorded at 9 a.m. claimed half a foot of snow had fallen in the city.

Whatever the case, roughly 5 to 8 inches fell across most of Middlesex County, Mitchell Gaines, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said.

The forecast alone was enough to cause many businesses and government offices yesterday to announce that they would close.

New Brunswick’s schools, city government and municipal court all shut down today. Plus, notable businesses like Stuff Yer Face, Harvest Moon and Jersey Subs decided early on to keep the lights off and their employees home.

“Spring break snow = snow day for us,” the operators of Olive Branch, the popular hangout near Rutgers’ College Avenue Campus, wrote on Facebook. “Closed to drink in our PJs. See you tomorrow!”

Hidden Grounds, meanwhile, opted to give their employees a later start time. The company also suspended delivery services for the day due to unsafe road conditions.

The public works department has been plowing and salting roads nonstop since midnight, city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw told TAPinto New Brunswick. She said crews were “doing a great job,” which was made possible, in part, by residents who moved their vehicles to several city garages that allowed free parking during the storm.

When, exactly, all New Brunswick roads will be clear remains unknown, Bradshaw said.

In fact, the city is under a winter weather warning for the remainder of the afternoon, further complicating cleanup efforts and travel.

Gaines, the meteorologist, said scattered snow showers will occur throughout the rest of the day and possibly into tomorrow. High winds, sometimes reaching 30 miles per hour, and a temperature drop that’s set to rapidly refreeze water and sludge will only add to the headache, he said.

“It will become very slick on sidewalks and roads, and you just really need to watch your step,” he told TAPinto New Brunswick.

As of 1:45 p.m., the city’s police and fire departments had no major snow-related incidents to report. Bradshaw said they are “staffed and working smoothly.”

Businesses that are open, meanwhile, are dealing with a range of challenges.

Vinnie Inzano of the Corner Tavern said his bar was open and ready to pour Bud Light pints and mix kamikazes, which are both on special. But before he could do that, he had a good deal of snow to shovel outside—enough that it’d take some time to clear.

Hidden Grounds is responsible for maintaining sidewalks outside only one of its locations. The parking authority cares for the other, which is below the Easton Avenue Apartments, Patel said.

Even so, shoveling and salting took a while this morning, he said. And it’s been a chore to keep the path clear as the day progressed.

For Patel’s popular coffee business, this late-winter snowstorm is the latest event in a pattern of odd weather that has tinkered with sales. Compared to this time last year, the numbers are down about 5 percent this month, he said.

“What’s frustrating about this is the up-and-down nature of the weather,” he added. “Consumers like habits.”

And when winter and spring can’t quite decide who’s in charge, that makes it more difficult for coffee drinkers to pick between a hot cup or a cold brew. Sometimes—especially on snowy, windy days—it’s easier to simply stay home.

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