A record-breaking deep freeze has gripped the upper Midwest for the past two days shutting down schools, halting UPS, FedEx and USPS deliveries, closing some businesses and keeping most people indoors.
HALO Branded Solutions closed six of its offices across Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday because of the dangerous weather conditions but resumed normal operations at noon today.
Supplier Howard Miller’s Michigan plant was also closed Wednesday for the safety of its employees, along with supplier Raining Rose, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which has since reopened, but a number of promotional products companies across the region remained open, operating with fewer employees and with some employees working from home.
At supplier ADG Promotional Products in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, some of the company’s marketing and salespeople worked from home but the customer service team was in the office all day. President Bill Mahre, CAS, says the biggest challenge has been that schools and daycare facilities have been closed for the past three days. He says folks in the region are hardy and capable of handling adverse conditions, but this week’s temperatures were exceptional. Still, he closed the office every day by 4 pm so his employees could make it home before dark.
When Jodie Schillinger, CAS, executive vice president at supplier Maple Ridge Farms in Mosinee, Wisconsin, woke up at 5 am the thermostat read -27 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, she says the bitter temperatures have not affected their employees or customers’ orders, even though shipping carriers have experienced a few delays in some deliveries.
“Ironically, over the past two days, we gave all employees the opportunity to rideshare or call leadership teams for a ride, bring child/pet to work or simply stay home. We only had one employee who did not make it to work. We love to believe that it is pure passion for our amazing Maple Ridge Farms culture (and our fun industry) that brings people to work safely each day. We are fortunate to have such an amazing team,” she says. Company owner and founder Tom Riordan adds, “We are rugged, tough Wisconsinites and never let a little winter weather bother us. Please continue to send orders!”
Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS+, CEO of distributor Competitive Edge in Stevensville, Michigan, reports employees are working in the office and from home as they choose using a cloud-based system that allows them to do all CRM sales and customer service functions remotely. “Aside from being miserably cold today, we had a very good sales day and business continued as usual,” she says. She also brought in pizza and soup this week, so team members didn’t have to brave the cold for lunch and allowed them to wear jeans or whatever else they needed to stay warm. “Customers don’t stop in on days like today … or tomorrow.”
FedEx’s website says it’s closely monitoring the winter storm and has contingency plans in place to ensure safety and to minimize the storm’s effects on service. The site recommended checking with local offices regarding service delays. For today, UPS is reporting no service because of severe road conditions to cities across some areas of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and New York, and limited service to cities in those states, as well as in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Likewise, USPS mail service has been suspended to dozens of ZIP Code locations in the region.
David Glenn, president of supplier CoasterStone in Carmel, Indiana, says the temps there got down to -37 degrees but the company has been open for business as usual, although FedEx was not operating in his area. “So, I loaded up my car and took the packages to the terminal. Our customers have events and we need to do what we can to get their items to them. We cranked up the heat in the warehouse and brought in a heater to get the warehouse to 68 degrees, keeping things toasty. For lunch, we brought in soup and salad to warm up and keep everyone from having to go out in the cold.”
Dan McIlroy, CAS, president of distributor ProAdSpec, Inc. in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is glad he moved his office home nearly two years ago, so his commute is up a couple of flights of stairs and he says he has no reason to go out. “The whole state is essentially shut down so appointments and meetings for the past three days are being re-scheduled,” he says. “Fortunately for me, I have clients across the country, so business has not stopped.”
For other promotional products professionals, the show must go on—literally. Michael Reisbaum, director of national accounts for supplier New Jersey-based Blue Generation, braved the dangerous temperatures to fly into Chicago this week for his planned visit with clients, to work a trade show and then drive to Wisconsin for more appointments. Despite driving 163 brutal miles on a snowy and treacherous highway, he says he arrived safely, had excellent meetings with his customers and was expecting a great trade show today—even though its opening was delayed. “When it comes to challenges on the road, weather related or otherwise, toughen up, buttercup, and just do the job,” he says. “Respect your clients, respect your company and respect yourself. Be a professional and do what you promise to do.”
Still, everyone in the region is holding their breath for Friday’s forecasted high in Chicago of 21 degrees.