Residents in the neighborhood who are waiting until the last minute to stock up for the approaching hurricane may want to reconsider: stores up and down Atlantic Avenue, Smith Street and Court Street are closing early or have closed up and gone home already.
The MTA shutdown, even more so than the anticipated adverse weather conditions, was dictating local businesses' hours on Saturday morning. The beginning at noon Saturday in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
Jin Kim, manager of Key Foods on Atlantic Ave., said he might be forced to close early, around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, because employees won't be able get to and from work due to the subway closure.
"I'm concerned about it," he said.
A sign in the window of said the store would be open on Saturday only until 10 a.m.
"We will be closed Sunday, August 28. We will re-open on Monday, August 29, once Hurricane Irene has passed and the MTA begins normal service," the sign read. The store's normal operating hours are 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.
"With the hurricane coming and the subway shutting down, we have to close early," said one Trader Joe's employee, who asked not to be named. He said he got a call from his manager last night informing him of the store's reduced hours. "Employees have to get home. The subway shutdown was definitely an issue," he says. A store supervisor declined to comment.
The specialty grocery store countered its early closing time by opening two hours early at 6 a.m. By 8 a.m., the store was packed with customers snatching up provisions like water, pasta and granola.
"I stocked up on stereotypical-apocalypse supplies like water and toilet paper and pretzels," says Laina Yoswein, as she peered into her two brown grocery bags. "And some mango gummies for good measure."
Some customers made the early morning trip to Trader Joe's after being deterred by the store's long lines Friday night.
"I was going to shop last night but the line just to get in was wrapped around the corner of Atlantic," says Roseanne Banister, who was planning on purchasing Trader Joe's prepared meals and dry food.
Local businesses with employees who live nearby plan to stay open later into Saturday afternoon. A sign posted on the door of in Cobble Hill read, "Plan ahead for Hurricane Irene and don't forget to stock up on books." The store expected to be open until 6 p.m.
"Most of the people who work here live within walking or biking distance of the store, so the subway shutdown isn't as much of a factor," said Jessica Jorge, who was manning the store's register early Saturday.
Many neighborhood stores that don't sell hurricane essentials like food or hardware had closed altogether. A sign in the window of Starbucks on Court and Joralemon streets read, "Blame it on the weatherman, not us. We're closed due to inclement weather. We will reopen on Monday."
Iris Nails on Smith Street posted a sign notifying customers that it would be closed for business all weekend. White towels were stuffed under the salon's glass doors in what looked like a last-minute attempt to prevent water from seeping in. also posted a sign saying it was closed until Monday, as did Barnes & Nobel.
Hardware stores were packed with early-morning shoppers looking for supplies to help protect their homes from the rain and the 70 mph winds that the National Weather Service expects Hurricane Irene to produce.
Bruno's Hardware on Court Street was all out of flashlights, but it had batteries, which were hard to come by on Friday, said a store employee. He said Bruno's would probably close early depending on the weather, but it hadn't yet decided on when it would shut its doors.
"Honestly, I'm surprised places are open at all," said , who was waiting for his wife to check out at Bruno's. They were stocking up on sandbags for a second time. They'd packed their window wells with sandbags Friday afternoon to prevent water from leaking into their basement, but the bags were gone by the evening. "We had about 300 pounds of sand stolen," said Fernow. "We're guessing it was someone with a car who was desperate," he said.
No matter what sort of weather Irene brings, one thing is certain: she sure is good for business. Hardware and grocery store employees weren't concerned about having to close their shops on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. The influx of customers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning will be more than enough to offset lost sales on Sunday, said Kim of Key Foods, whose store was running low on bread and eggs.
"We did so much businesses yesterday, closing early won't matter," he said.