The restaurant was closed Saturday but reopened early Sunday morning after Ulusan shoveled his car out of the snow at 7 a.m.
“We had no choice,” Ulusan said. “Our bills were piling up every day. We needed the revenue.”
In all, he estimates the company lost more than $5,000 on Friday and Saturday.
Across the region, small businesses said they lost thousands of dollars in revenue over the weekend, when many were forced to shutter their doors because of the blizzard. Even the ones that stayed open said sales were sparse and many of those had to operate short-handed because employees were snowed in.
Businesses in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan area lost an estimated $275 million in economic activity as a result of the storm, according to Planalytics, a weather analytics firm in Berwyn, Pa. Retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues were among the hardest hit by the weekend storm.
Nationally, losses to businesses are projected to be in the billions of dollars, according to Steven Bowen, meteorologist and associate director for Aon Benfield, a reinsurance firm based in London.
A similar blizzard in January 1996 led to losses of $4.6 billion in today’s dollars, he said.
“Obviously it’s still early on, but a lot of these these business interruption costs can be just as costly as physical damage to homes, vehicles and businesses,” Bowen said. “It’s going to be quite costly for small business that haven’t been able to open because the roads haven’t been plowed or employees weren’t able to get to work.”
Capitol Nails Salon in Capitol Hill relies heavily on weekend customers. The salon was closed beginning Friday. It reopened Monday morning but was off to a slow start, said owner Tuan Nguyen.
So far, about five people had stopped by before noon.
“On Saturday, usually 80 people come in but we were closed,” Nguyen said. “We easily lost $10,000 in three days.”
Grocery stores, liquor shops and hardware stores fared somewhat better since they benefited from a surge in purchases in the run-up to the blizzard. At Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick, booming sales earlier in the week more than made up for lost weekend business, according to owner Paul Throne.
“Thursday and Friday were more than triple the sales of a regular day,” he said as he restocked shelves Monday morning. “It’s similar to what happens every winter — although I can’t say we’ve ever been closed three days in a row before.”
Glen’s Garden Market, which has locations in Dupont Circle and Shaw, racked up record sales on Thursday and Friday as customers doubled-down on basics such as milk and eggs, according to owner Danielle Vogel.
When she saw the piles of snow Saturday morning, Vogel emailed her employees and told them it’d be a company-wide snow day. She planned to quietly open the Dupont Circle store to sell groceries by herself.
But when she showed up at 8:15, the the store’s chef and another hourly employee were already there, shoveling snow. Later, she found out that the chef at her Shaw location had arrived at 6 a.m. Saturday to begin preparing brunch.
“Saturday was super fun. It felt like a party in a ski lodge,” she said. “Some people came in for groceries, but most people were here to eat brunch and drink beer.”
Ben’s Chili Bowl stayed open on U Street NW throughout the storm, but business was a sliver of what it usually is on the weekends, said Vida Ali, a member of the family who owns the iconic District-based restaurant.
The company’s other two locations, on H Street NE and in Arlington, were closed.
“I honestly think it was a big loss — tens of thousands of dollars,”Ali said. “Two of our stores were shut down for three of our busiest days.”
Many of the people who stopped by at the U Street restaurant were first-responders stopping in for coffee or locals looking for a reprieve from shoveling, Ali said. The restaurant also got a crowd of locals following Sunday morning’s neighborhood snowball fight in Dupont Circle.
Employees who lived nearby staffed the store. Since delivery trucks weren’t able to make it in, staffers stopped by nearby grocery stores to pick up produce, including lettuce, tomatoes and carrots.
“There was a real community feeling out there,” she said. “You got the sense that we’re all in this together.”
At Tipo’s Toy Box in Gaithersburg, owner Lew Tipograph received a steady stream of calls Monday morning from customers asking if his shop was open.
“By now everybody is getting bored,” he said. “”Kids are stuck inside and their parents don’t want them to be on the TV or computer playing video games all day.”
He planned to open around 11 and said he expected locals to stop by for puzzles, games and other toys that could keep their children entertained while school was closed. He said he would be able to recoup some of his losses from the weekened — canceled birthday parties would likely be rescheduled, after all — but said there was no way he could make up for all of that lost business.
“But,” he added, “January is our quietest month. It’s better something like this happens now.”
Some businessowners, like Allison Priebe Brooks, said the storm provided a welcome break. Brooks, who owns the jewelry company Queen Bee Designs and has a studio in her home, said she spent the weekend paying bills and watching runway shows to get ideas for her summer line.
“I reorganized my entire studio,” she said. ” I’m not making any money, but I’m using the downtime.”