With a team of experienced personnel and a seasoned natural disaster plan in place, SUPERVALU and its independent retail operations successfully weathered the challenges posed by Hurricane Sandy as she made a devastating landfall at the end of October.
The national grocery and pharmacy company is headquartered in Eden Prairie, MN. “We have a great team who were ready to respond,” SUPERVALU National Media Manager Mike Siemienas told The Produce News Nov. 6. “There’s some luck in that as well.”
The Category 1 superstorm, appropriately termed “Frankenstorm,” pummeled the Eastern Seaboard, eventually making landfall just south of Atlantic City, NJ,on Oct. 29. A storm surge in lower Manhattan, NY, rose to record levels, causing devastating flooding. Millions of residents from New York to Ohio watched the world go dark as the power went off.
“The storm had the highest power loss we’ve seen,” Mr. Siemienas stated.
ACME — which bore the brunt of the storm — and SHOPPERS are two of the independent SUPERVALU retail grocery stores operating under the company’s banner. “We had more than 300 stores that were potentially affected by the storm,” Mr. Siemienas stated. “ACME has 117 stores, many of which were affected by Hurricane Sandy.”
Mr. Siemienas said the company has taken a proactive stand to prepare for weather events, even those in the extreme. “We were also fortunate about the way the storm came through,” he commented. “We didn’t have the problems we did with Hurricane Irene.”
Generators were moved to locations as needed, and stores in the affected area had already been closed. “Stores and personnel were communicating with each other,” he said. “Where possible, we pulled food out of the storm. We had 100,000 pounds of dry ice to get to stores to save product.”
The company’s distribution center was not affected by Hurricane Sandy, and the logistics team worked around the clock to facilitate repairs and get goods moving as soon as it was safe.
“There was a whole lot of coordination going on,” Mr. Siemienas said.
Experience and hard work paid off. By Nov. 1, the number of stores closed was in the single digits. “At this point in time, we only have two stores closed,” he said on Nov. 6. Mr. Siemienas said both were flooded, and reconstruction work had already begun to reopen the stores as quickly as possible.
Community outreach began quickly. Both ACME and Save A Lot trucked in water and food necessities to displaced residents who were temporarily sheltered at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
“This was a devastating storm. We are glad to be here to help people with recovery,” Mr. Siemienas said. “We are still evaluating in many communities what we can do.”