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Talk of the bay

Unlike bank, Publix opened after Wilma's threat passed

Published October 31, 2005

Hurricane Wilma bypassed much of the Tampa Bay area last Monday. By lunchtime, the sun was shining in St. Petersburg.

But while some retail chains opened their doors for business that day, others remained shuttered. Several factors were at play.

Flexibility was one. At Publix Super Markets, individual store managers were empowered to decide the fate of their own locations, provided emergency response staff at company headquarters in Lakeland approved. Most local stores opened before noon. "If it was found there was minimal to no damage and it was safe on the streets, we did ask our associates to come in," spokeswoman Maria Brous said.

SunTrust Banks, on the other hand, announced the day before Wilma's landfall that all of its Tampa Bay area locations would be closed the next day. By the time a conference call was held at 2 p.m. Monday to assess local conditions, it was too late to reverse the decision. SunTrust banks typically close at 4 p.m.; many Publix stores stay open until 10 p.m. or later.

Business models also come into play. A grocery store doesn't make money unless customers walk its aisles. A bank, however, continues to collect loan payments regardless of the weather. And as long as its ATMs are working, it can offer continuous basic service to customers.

Withdraw some cash. Use it to buy cereal and milk. That works.

[Last modified October 28, 2005, 18:46:02]

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