Hurricane Florence Brings Flooding, Halts Business

Hurricane Florence tore through parts of the coast after making landfall in Wilmington, North Carolina, Sept. 14, bringing torrential rain and winds. At least 37 people in the Carolinas and Virginia have died due to storm-related incidents, and some towns saw roughly 30 inches of rainfall. Officials in North Carolina say the flooding is expected to worsen as nearly 20 rivers in the state are at the major flood stage.

Music Inc. spoke to several MI businesses in affected areas for updates on the storm's impact, including Music & Arts, Musical Innovations, Mojotone, Sam Ash Music and Sims Music.

Mojotone, a manufacturer located just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, in Burgaw, closed shop Sept. 11 after the state issued mandatory evacuation orders.

"Some employees went as far north as Connecticut, some went to Virginia and others scattered around North Carolina trying to get out of the storm's path," said Jon Croft, vice president of sales and marketing at Mojotone.

Croft said that, other than roof leaks and downed trees, he hasn't heard from his employees about any major loss or damage. But it has been difficult to keep in touch with his team after the chaos the storm brought.

"A fair amount of our staff that works manufacturing are not on our email [lists], and we haven't made contact with everyone, so it's a little unnerving not knowing the status of every single one on our team," Croft said. "Right now, communication is a little scattered as people are away from phones and email."

Justin Sims of Sims Music in Columbia, South Carolina, said the area missed the brunt of the storm.

"It actually ended up just bringing us a little rain and light wind," Sims said. "We were very fortunate."

Sims explained that Columbia was hit by a flood three years ago that still affects residents today, and a greater hit by Florence could have made the situation markedly worse.

"We were nervous that this one would hit us and add to the problems," Sims said. "But luckily for us, it weakened and caused very little damage around town."

Music & Arts locations in the Carolinas sustained no damage from the hurricane, said Renier Fee, director of marketing at Music & Arts.

"So far, we haven't heard of anything more than minor flooding with a couple of our team members," Fee said.

Musical Innovations in Greenville, South Carolina — roughly 103 miles northwest of Columbia, and about three hours away from the coastal towns racked by Florence — also reported minimal damage from the storm. Although Musical Innovations wasn't in the hurricane's path, owner Tracy Leenman said the retailer's school service business throughout the state has taken a hit.

"We are absolutely fine," Leenman said. "The lower part of the state, however, is under water. We have one director whose school will be closed for weeks [due to the storm]."

Leenman said only one rental program in Marion County, one of the regions hit hard by flooding, was postponed, and several schools were closed.

"The damage in South Carolina was very localized—horrible, but localized," Leenman said. "We are fortunate to be three hours inland, so we are fine."

Leenman wasn't the only retailer to attribute their safety to luck. Sammy Ash, chief operating officer at Sam Ash Music, said his company's locations in Virginia and the Carolinas had no storm-related damage.

"We were once again very lucky (same as Hurricane Maria)," Ash said. "We sustained no damage and only minimal amounts of closures."

Ash said the Charlotte, North Carolina, store location was closed for one day, and the Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, locations had one late opening and one early closing.

"For the most part, once again we dodged a major bullet," Ash said. "From the accounts so far, our people sustained very little damage to their homes, but the waters are still rising a bit."

But in Wilmington, Mojotone's Croft said that even though the manufacturer's building wasn't damaged, restoring business will be a challenge.

"As you can imagine, the entire operation has been disrupted — supply chain, manufacturing, sales — the impact of which we do not yet fully know. We are optimistic and pressing ahead," Croft said. "We are fortunate that we didn't experience any destruction to our shop, but the shutdown and the time it will take to get up to 100 percent output will be stressful." MI

— By Tyra Bosnic