- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) — The nation's capital is not immune to the slings and arrows of regular life, as witnessed by the recent record snowstorm, and the subsequent run on local hardware stores for shovels and other snow fighting items.

True Value Hardware on 17th Street in the District sold out of their stock of 200 snow shovels by noon Monday. A shipment of 48 more shovels on Wednesday sold out in five hours.

"Now, I'm completely out of shovels again," said co-owner John Spaulding. "And that's counting that over the weekend, our customer counts were down, since it was a holiday weekend."

The President's Day snowstorm that blanketed the Washington area with over 2 feet of snow shut down the city over the weekend. As local retail picks up the pieces of the post-storm mess, the hardware sector has been experiencing a sales boom.

Adding to this: pre-snow, hardware stores were already doing booming business from heightened terrorist alerts, which led to frenzied sales of duct tape and plastic sheets, as customers stocked up for protection of their homes from biological terrorist attacks.

Now, after the storm, there's not a shovel to be found for sale in the Washington area; they're all sold out. Chemical ice melt is also at a premium.

Adams Morgan Hardware manager Girma Besta said he couldn't remember such a busy time at his store. The 18th Street store is sold out of every shovel and chemical ice melt in its stock.

"They're asking for shovels. They're asking for any shovel, anything we got but we don't have much to satisfy," he said. A native of Ethiopia, Besta said he had never seen so much snow.

At Candey Hardware in downtown Washington, the staff opened Sunday, when they are usually closed, to keep up with demand.

"We pretty much sold out of everything, especially ice melt and snow shovels," said manager Howard McGinley. "Then we managed to run a couple of our personal vehicles out and pick up more. We usually have wholesale suppliers bring them down on trucks, but no trucks were running."

Christopher's Hardware in Glen Echo, Md., shut down for Sunday because staff couldn't get to the store, but managed to open for six hours on Monday. Even with the reduced hours, the store quickly ran through its stock of winter supplies.

"The last shovel stood out front all by itself for about 25 minutes. Then, it was gone," co-owner Michael Christopher said.

While in buying shovels, patrons also continued to stock up on terrorist attack supplies. "One day we sold 5 miles of duct tape," he said.

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