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Power outage hits some businesses in downtown Amherst



Friday, December 27, 2013
AMHERST — As customers entered Blue Marble gift store Wednesday, they were greeted by the owner telling them that despite the dim light and chilly interior, the store was indeed open.

“We keep telling people we have no electricity, but we still have a sense of humor,” Cathie Walz said.

Blue Marble was one of six businesses in a block of stores on North Pleasant Street affected by an extended power outage that is believed to have begun just before 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The outage was first reported Wednesday at 9 a.m., and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. brought a generator to the site to provide power to the building at 1:20 p.m. Technicians were still working Wednesday at 10 p.m. to replace the underground transformer that failed and caused the outage. They expected to restore power late Wednesday night, said WMECO spokeswoman Angela Ruggiero.

To help people browse the eclectic items on the shelves, Walz and her employees were handing out flashlights and even allowing them to take items outdoors to get better light to examine the products they might purchase.

The Toy Box and Zanna, like Blue Marble, were open for business all day Wednesday, while Amherst Optical Shoppe and Baku’s African Restaurant both planned for later afternoon openings. Vici hair salon posted a sign stating that it would reopen Thursday.

Emily Bieritz, the manager at Toy Box, said she was closing the shop Tuesday evening when the power went out, not only in the store but all along North Pleasant Street. But after she got into her car, she noticed it restored in nearby businesses. “When I was pulling out, I saw the power coming back on everywhere.”

Bieritz said it is not unusual to have electrical problems in the building.

“I’ve been here on days when there are high winds and the power starts to flicker,” she said.

Toy Box owner Liz Rosenberg said it is understandable that power outages sometimes happen during and after snowstorms. She said that a transformer blew out during the store’s grand opening a decade ago.

Toy Box employees were using a credit card reader attached to Rosenberg’s cellphone to process transactions until the generator power came on.

Adam Lussier, president and owner of Zanna, said he and his employees were making sales an old-fashioned way. This included noting the merchandise being sold in writing and taking credit card numbers from people to process later when the power returned.

“We feel like our customers have been very understanding. It’s out of our control,” Lussier said.

With no lights on, the store relied on daylight, operating in a green fashion. “It’s very economical,” Lussier said.

The stores also did not have heat and employees were working with their coats on. “More customers will help warm the store,” Rosenberg said.

Lussier said it is fortunate that the outage happened on a weekday. “I’m happy it’s not Saturday,” he said.

Still, Walz said having a power failure a week before Christmas is not ideal for a gift store, calling it “somewhat terrifying. But we’re still smiling.”

AMHERST — As customers entered Blue Marble gift store Wednesday, they were greeted by the owner telling them that despite the dim light and chilly interior, the store was indeed open.

“We keep telling people we have no electricity, but we still have a sense of humor,” Cathie Walz said.

Blue Marble was one of six businesses in a block of stores on North Pleasant Street affected by an extended power outage that is believed to have begun just before 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The outage was first reported Wednesday at 9 a.m., and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. brought a generator to the site to provide power to the building at 1:20 p.m. Technicians were still working Wednesday at 10 p.m. to replace the underground transformer that failed and caused the outage. They expected to restore power late Wednesday night, said WMECO spokeswoman Angela Ruggiero.

To help people browse the eclectic items on the shelves, Walz and her employees were handing out flashlights and even allowing them to take items outdoors to get better light to examine the products they might purchase.

The Toy Box and Zanna, like Blue Marble, were open for business all day Wednesday, while Amherst Optical Shoppe and Baku’s African Restaurant both planned for later afternoon openings. Vici hair salon posted a sign stating that it would reopen Thursday.

Emily Bieritz, the manager at Toy Box, said she was closing the shop Tuesday evening when the power went out, not only in the store but all along North Pleasant Street. But after she got into her car, she noticed it restored in nearby businesses. “When I was pulling out, I saw the power coming back on everywhere.”

Bieritz said it is not unusual to have electrical problems in the building.

“I’ve been here on days when there are high winds and the power starts to flicker,” she said.

Toy Box owner Liz Rosenberg said it is understandable that power outages sometimes happen during and after snowstorms. She said that a transformer blew out during the store’s grand opening a decade ago.

Toy Box employees were using a credit card reader attached to Rosenberg’s cellphone to process transactions until the generator power came on.

Adam Lussier, president and owner of Zanna, said he and his employees were making sales an old-fashioned way. This included noting the merchandise being sold in writing and taking credit card numbers from people to process later when the power returned.

“We feel like our customers have been very understanding. It’s out of our control,” Lussier said.

With no lights on, the store relied on daylight, operating in a green fashion. “It’s very economical,” Lussier said.

The stores also did not have heat and employees were working with their coats on. “More customers will help warm the store,” Rosenberg said.

Lussier said it is fortunate that the outage happened on a weekday. “I’m happy it’s not Saturday,” he said.

Still, Walz said having a power failure a week before Christmas is not ideal for a gift store, calling it “somewhat terrifying. But we’re still smiling.”