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    Hurricane Ike's Blow Only Glances Brookshire Grocery Co.

    The chain, with all stores open, is ready for the post-storm rush as evacuees return.

    Even as Hurricane Ike roared through southeastern Texas, barreling right through Brookshire Grocery Co.'s hometown of Tyler, the chain managed to dodge major damage to its facilities in the area.

    "All of our stores are currently open," Ed Van Fleet, the grocer's v.p. of corporate asset protection, told Progressive Grocer. "We closed two stores during the storm: one in south Louisiana, due to flooding potential from the storm surge; and one in east Texas, which opened late on Saturday."

    Damage to Brookshire stores was limited to just a few locations, according to Van Fleet, mainly in the form of roof leaks. "We had 26 locations lose power for various lengths of time," he added. "Only a few were down for more than a day."

    By the time the eye of the storm passed directly over Tyler, Ike had been downgraded to a tropical storm.

    The grocer had several generators staged at the corporate office but once it was determined the primary distribution and office functions were not in jeopardy, Brookshire dispatched the generators to stores that needed them, Van Fleet said.

    "Our stores used a combination of refrigerated trucks, dry ice, and insulated covers for their cases and coolers," he said. "This, combined with reduced perishable shipments just prior to the storm, allowed for minimal product loss."

    Van Fleet said that for a few weeks after a storm like Ike, there's usually a significant volume increase in stores as customers return to their homes. "Relaxed WIC and food stamp regulations provide expanded purchasing opportunities for customers in this time of need," he said.

    Van Fleet added that events such as Ike call for corporate involvement in the community, whether that means providing refrigerated trucks at evacuation centers or labor to operate relief centers.

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