Peninsula businesses share their snow stories

Peninsula businesses share their snow stories, including snowball fights, beer and plenty of shoveling.

The Virginia Beer Co. at 401 Second Street in Williamsburg opened at noon Sunday in time for its normal hours after staff spent about five hours shoveling the walkways, entryways and outdoor beer garden Saturday and Sunday, co-founder Robby Willey said.

A contractor who helped out with the facility’s initial build-out, David A. Nice Builders, plowed the parking lot Saturday afternoon, he said.

Willey, along with a couple staff members in walking distance, shoveled some walkways Saturday although the brewery was closed because some friends came into town from Milwaukee and wanted to see the new business. Willey said it was the first time the brewery had closed for such an event since opening at the end of March in 2016.

After all the shoveling on Sunday morning, Willey said the crew shared pints of beer together around an outdoor fire pit. Customers, including a birthday party, also came by Sunday and the Virginia Beer co-workers indulged in snowball fights, Willey said.

“It made for beautiful scenery and it was kind of fun to see that kind of snow because in Virginia, you don’t always get that kind of winter,” Willey said.

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Strickland's Outdoor Solutions, a Poquoson-based landscaping business that opened in April 2016, was busy with two crews working Saturday afternoon, overnight and all day Sunday to get business parking lots and residential driveways cleared, owner Bob Strickland said.

"I'm going to be basically working through the night to get businesses open," Strickland said.

The demand for snow removal services is motivating customers to pay more for quicker service, and the new business is benefiting from the snow during its first winter, according to Strickland. Still, he said the work would be easier if folks would stay off roads and parking lots until they're clear.

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Mike Marfell shoveled show and ice from the sidewalk in front of SunTrust Bank in the Hilton area of Newport News Sunday morning. While the lot had just a few inches of snow, Marfell, who works for a private contractor, said he'd seen up to 10 inches of snow in some areas. His crew started shoveling and plowing local business parking lots early Saturday and had just a four-hour break overnight, he said.

Marfell said he was surprised to see people out driving when roads were especially hazardous Saturday night into early Sunday. He said he saw several crashes and disabled vehicles on the Peninsula and Southside. "It was pretty intense, actually," he said.

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The rhythmic scratch of Scott Hemler’s shovel against brick broke the silence as snow fell on Prince George Street in Merchants Square around 8 a.m. this morning.

Hemler, a Colonial Williamsburg Operations worker, took a break from his current task of clearing the brick sidewalk outside of Aroma’s Coffeehouse to reflect on the storm.

While he’s seen some larger storms in his 21 years in the job, this weekend’s snowfall was certainly noteworthy, he said.

“It’s one of the big ones,” Hemler said, who had been working since earlier that morning.

Hemler was one of a number of Colonial Williamsburg Operations crew out on Saturday, clearing sidewalks and doing other work to dig out Duke of Gloucester Street and nearby areas owned by the Foundation like Merchants Square though most stores, including Aromas, were closed.

Once he reached a stopping place, Hemler jumped in the driver’s seat of an operations pickup truck and drove off to work elsewhere.

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If it wasn’t for the “livestock” at his store, Pet Castle owner Richard Clayton said he would not have ventured out Saturday morning.

“I’ve got to make sure everything is OK,” he said. “The animals have to have food and water and it’s better for me to come and check on them than have my employees come out to do it.”

His biggest worry for the rest of the day, he said, will be whether or not the power goes out. No power means no heat for the fish and reptiles.
“If that happens it looks like we will have a bunch of animals at home,” Clayton said.

Since opening the store in Hayes nearly 10 years ago, he said they have only lost power twice for an extended amount of time.

Clayton decided close the store on Saturday and head back home. He hopes to open for normal hours on Sunday.

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Ace Hardware in Hampton Town Center opened on time Saturday morning, though it will close around 3 p.m., so employees can arrive home by dark.

"We're out of ice melt, we have two shovels left," cashier Tyler Snavely said.

The store was jam packed all day Friday, said Snavely's coworker, Jerry Schenck. Lines ran the length of the store most of the day Friday when Schenck got in around 7:30 a.m., until he left a little after 6 p.m., he said.

The store went through eight pallets of ice melt and hundreds of shovels Friday, Schenck said. It's also currently sold out of brushes and ice scrapers. Customers have also been buying batteries and face masks.

One customer stopped in the store early Saturday morning to purchase multiple face masks and a snow brush.

"It was a madhouse here yesterday," Schenck said. "And we're still trying to figure out why we're here today."

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Laurie Allen, store manager of a 7-Eleven in Hampton, arrived at the store around 5:30 a.m. Saturday.

No employees have called out so far today, she said.

Allen sent a text to employees Friday night letting them know she could give them a ride to work if they were nervous about getting to the store.

"Still got to run the store," Allen said.

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