Walmart barricaded its doors early Sept. 11 for Hurricane Florence. Target did not. Harris Teeter closed late Wednesday. Publix stayed open until late Friday afternoon.
Big-box businesses, bars and restaurants that stayed open after the governor issued a coastal evacuation order a week ago reaped brisk business during the storm, which barely scratched the Lowcountry.
Those that closed, such as Walmart, which blocked its doors with bundles of cardboard and wooden pallets just after midnight Monday, said they wanted to give their employees time to get ready for the storm and heed the evacuation order.
"We feel comfortable we made the right decision based on the dynamics of that time with the evacuation order," Walmart spokesman Phil Keene said Monday. "We always lean toward the safety of our associates."
Walmart reopened its stores over the weekend, and Keene said supplies targeted for Charleston from distribution centers are not being disrupted by road closures from flooding in the hurricane's aftermath.
Those businesses that remained open during the storm, such as Florida-based Publix, which counts 88 years of dealing with hurricanes, asked employees to volunteer to work if they weren't going to evacuate.
"Our goal has been to find the best balance between serving our communities’ and customers’ needs while ensuring our associates’ safety is never compromised," said Publix spokeswoman Kimberly Reynolds.
"With this goal in mind, stores that can safely be operated by associates who are willing and able to come to work will remain open," she said Monday. "We do not deny an associate’s request to voluntarily evacuate or leave to care for their family or property."
Harris Teeter spokeswoman Danna Robinson said the company did not regret closing its stores when it did.
"Each associate is encouraged to personally make the best and safest decision for themselves and their family," Robinson said. "In Charleston specifically, we had some associates who volunteered to work, which allowed us to provide our neighbors access to food, medication and other essentials when many other locations were closed."
Target spokewoman Danielle Schumann said, "We balance our need to keep stores open for the community while making sure our team members can take care of themselves and their families."
With a light wind blowing and a thin layer of clouds covering the region after the hurricane made landfall in southeastern North Carolina on Friday, Publix's parking lots in the Charleston region were nearly full and employees continued to restock as the storm lurked up the coast.
Most other businesses remained shuttered during much of the evacuation order over five days. Those that did stay open garnered kudos from customers and possibly a financial windfall.
"It was great that they were open," said Kim Ballou, a customer at a Publix store in Mount Pleasant. "I appreciate that other stores were concerned about their employees and I suspect Publix was as well. I saw a lot of people in here that I suspect were shopping here since the other stores were closed."
D'Allesandro's Pizza stayed open, too.
The pizzeria wasn't that busy on Tuesday through Thursday since some other restaurants were still open, but when businesses started to close on Friday, traffic picked up at the peninsular Charleston pizzeria.
"We did as much business as we could handle with a limited staff," owner Ben D'Allesandro said. "We could have taken delivery orders, but we didn't have the people to make deliveries."
At Royall Ace Hardware in Mount Pleasant, William Royall said the store was slammed up until it closed Thursday afternoon.
"It was pretty wide open," he said. "We didn't have much left to sell."
Popular items included fasteners for plywood, coolers, batteries, lanterns and flashlights.
West Ashley Hardware stayed open during the storm as well. A clerk called business "crazy" but said no one was available Monday to talk further about the store's decision to stay open.