CarMax, other stores reopen as Florence lingers
The last of the CarMax stores that were closed last week as Hurricane Florence bore down on the Southeast U.S. reopened Wednesday, a spokeswoman confirmed.
The retailer had shuttered eight locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia ahead of the storm, and all stores were open Tuesday, with the exception of a Fayetteville, N.C., location, which reopened Wednesday.
The company said in an email that its initial assessments show little damage to stores open prior to the hurricane. However, it added: "We have a new store in Wilmington, N.C., that will open in the coming weeks, and we're still assessing the impact to this location."
Wilmington is part of an area of southeastern North Carolina that received the brunt of Florence as the storm made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane. Donald Latham, who owns the Parkway of Wilmington group of stores there, said the storm had made a mess of the town, but his stores appeared to be OK.
Sonic Automotive, which has a handful of stores in the Charlotte, N.C., area, was unaffected. "We were open regular business hours on Monday," said Jeff Dyke, executive vice president of operations.
Other dealers throughout the coastal area hit by Florence were less fortunate, reporting wind damage as well as flooded inventory and stores.
And the potential for more flooding loomed days after the eye of Florence had left the Carolinas. Sixteen rivers in North Carolina were at flood stage and three others were expected to crest Wednesday or Thursday, the state's governor, Roy Cooper, said Tuesday. The storm had caused at least 36 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, and thousands of people remained in shelters.
Steve Cella, who owns Cella Ford in New Bern, N.C., said he was open for business Monday with a skeleton crew of employees. Neither his store nor his inventory had significant damage, but other dealers and residents of the area did not fare so well.
"Many of our employees have lost cars and homes to flooding," Cella said in an email. "This area has endured quite a few of these storms over the years, but this one did the most damage seen here in over 60 years. The town is already bouncing back but many people are in need of help."
The National Automobile Dealers Association has so far received 56 applications for aid from its emergency relief fund, and expects that number to grow, said Jonathan Collegio, NADA senior vice president of public affairs.
“It’s still a little bit slow-going in North Carolina,” he said, adding some dealers that contacted NADA still have not been able to reopen their stores.
Dealership staff and their families impacted by a natural disaster can submit applications for aid, and then have an authorized representative of the dealership sign off on the paperwork, Collegio said. The fund then pays out up to $1,500, depending on damage suffered and insurance coverage or lack thereof. Collegio said the fund typically disburses payments “within a couple days” of receiving applications.
The fund has given out more than $7 million in assistance to dealership staff and their families since it launched in 1992, Collegio said. NADA processed 1,363 applications for aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Danielle Szatkowski contributed to this report.
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