Harvard Square Businesses Cope with Effects of Severe Weather

When Hurricane Sandy battered Harvard Square, Cambridge businesses were forced to reassess their usual consumer priorities.

While some Harvard Square staples experienced regular levels of patronage, others found their decisions to close early or not open at all worthwhile.

“In the morning, we were very slow, so it was a good decision,” said Christopher Hogan, general manager of Panera Bread, which closed early at 1 p.m..

Many businesses decided to close early due to the suspension of MBTA services after 2 p.m. on Monday. “We were really affected by the T closure. Employees had to leave early and those who had cars or could walk came in,” said Bill Mahoney, the store manager at CVS.

Managers also attributed closing to employee safety concerns, taking precautions due to the state of emergency.

Denise A. Jillson, executive president of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that there had been no reports of damage to stores. “I think the city was incredibly prepared,” she said.

Two late-night staples of the Square, Pinocchio’s and Felipe’s, experienced contrasting levels of business on Monday. Jerry Panza, a longtime worker at Noch’s, said that the eatery had been busy all day. However, both of Thomas J. Brush’s businesses, Felipe’s and Flat Patties, remained open but stayed relatively quiet.

“I expected more people to come out exploring and experiencing the storm,” Brush said.

Brush decided to close both of his eateries an hour early. Other businesses, including the Harvard Square Book Store, chose to close due to the MBTA suspension while observing low foot traffic. “The head buyer said it was the quietest she’d seen the store in the 10 years that she has worked here,” said Brad Lennon, assistant manager.

But like Noch’s, some other businesses experienced normal or even above average levels of business.

Convenience stores CVS and Tommy’s Value found themselves as busy as usual. Sales were also bolstered Sunday by hordes of students preparing for the storm. The managers of these businesses and others in the Square chose to stay open because of the expectation that they would.

Jaime Leonard, the dining room manager of Russell House Tavern, said, “As a restaurant staple in Harvard Square we have to stay open, so that our customers know that they can depend on us.”

Indeed after Lisa C. Yao ’13 realized she had missed dining hall hours, she relied on the fact that certain Square businesses would be open despite the storm. Finding out that Border Cafe and Yenching were both open, Yao ultimately chose to venture to the closer option, Yenching, for her dinner.

“I didn’t think [the storm] was that bad,” she said.

—Staff writer Kerry M. Flynn can be reached at kflynn@college.harvard.edu

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