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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Blackout business booming in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal, Wednesday November 2, 2011

By Russell Blair
Record-Journal staff

WALLINGFORD — With large portions of Meriden, Southington and Cheshire still without power Tuesday after Saturday’s snowstorm, business was booming in Wallingford, where all but a few homes and businesses have their electricity back.

On Tuesday morning, more than 80 percent of Meriden remained without power, but as travelers on Route 5 crossed the Wallingford line, they saw working traffic lights, open businesses and long lines.

At the Dunkin’ Donuts at 1101 N. Colony Road, drive through traffic was backed up all the way to the road and the parking lot was full. Inside the restaurant, customers waited in a line that snaked throughout the lobby.

Victoria Brady, of Meriden, said she’s been without power since Saturday.

“And probably until the end of the week,” she added.

Brady saw the long line at the drive-through, and said she would rather wait inside the warm restaurant than outside in her car.

Throughout the outage, Brady said, she’s been stopping to get food “wherever I can find a place.”

While many customers without power were happy to find a place to get a hot meal or a cup of coffee, commuters on their way to work and regular customers were shocked by the increase in volume.

Lui Nobrega, of Wallingford, said he’d “never seen it this packed” at the North Colony Road Dunkin’ Donuts. Nobrega stopped at another Dunkin’ Donuts in town and turned away because of the line. Shortly after he entered his second Dunkin’ Donuts of the morning, he saw another extended line, turned around and left.

“It’s not happening,” he said. Jackie Branco, who works in Wallingford, also turned away from the North Colony Road Dunkin’ Donuts because of the long line.

“There’s lines like this all over, anywhere that’s serving breakfast,” she said.

Branco said she still had power at her Naugatuck home, so she didn’t mind a little inconvenience in her morning routine.

Maria Kyriakis, co-owner of Neptune House Restaurant and Diner, at 1086 N. Colony Road, said the restaurant has been “very busy” since the storm and she and her husband, Chris, were working around the clock.

“We’ve had people from Meriden, Cheshire, Southington, all the places that have been out,” she said.

The restaurant had extra employees working and was ordering extra supplies.

Kyriakis said her staff was trying to strike a balance between handling all the new customers as well as the regulars.

“The people we know, they’re like family,” she said. “We can only do so much. We’re trying the best we can.”

At Duchess Restaurant, at 124 Church St., Meriden resident Bob Martin was in a crowd of people stopping by for something to eat Tuesday morning. Martin said he had been without power since Saturday night at 11 p.m. Martin, who works in Wallingford, said he had made trips to other towns several times for gas and food.

“Pretty much only Wallingford has power,” he said. “About the only thing open in Meriden is the McDonald’s.”

Everywhere in the area he had been that had power was crowded.

“The lines are unbelievable,” he said.

At Holiday Cinemas, at 970 N. Colony Road, visits to the theater were up.

“It’s been a little crazy,” said Naomi Corso, a manager. “It’s more like what we see on the holidays.”

Corso said residents without power were coming to the movie theater to warm up, and with all local schools closed Tuesday many families with kids were stopping by.

“ ‘Puss in Boots’ sold out,” she said, referring to the children’s movie about a sword wielding cat.

Wallingford Electric Division, the municipal utility that covers the town, reported only 4,000 outages of the town’s 25,000 ratepayers at the peak of the storm. In a statement, the utility said it expected to restore power to all but 100 customers by midnight Tuesday. There is no estimate for when power will be restored completely.

By comparison, peak outages topped 24,000 in Meriden, 13,000 in Southington and 10,000 in Cheshire. Connecticut Light & Power Co., which covers the three municipalities, had not provided an estimated time for complete restoration as of Tuesday.

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