Jess Burrey of Pharmacy First.
Jess Burrey of Pharmacy First.

Back in business

EMERALD business owners in the flood-affected Centro Emerald Market have endured the worst of Mother Nature’s fury.

They faced an anxious and lengthy wait until they were given the all-clear by the centre’s management to re-enter their refurbished stores and rebuild their lives.

But for the five months the centre was closed, owners and managers took innovative and resourceful steps along the way to ensure their business could stay afloat.

Such as Amber Williams, manager of Stiletoes, who resorted to online sales and shoe parties to drum up business.

“After the floods, we had to have an innovative approach but there’s nothing like having your own store.

“The ladies at Blossoms were great but it’s better to be back in store.”

It was a loyal customer who first alerted Menswear Direct store manager Kathleen Springfield of the impending flood danger.

“On December 27, we got a phone call from a customer who lives in Springsure who said to us, ‘get down there and get your stuff up because there’s going to be a flood’,” Ms Springfield said.

“So we came down and started lifting things up and getting things out.”

But it wasn’t enough.

“Even with the prior warning, and people were laughing at us saying it wasn’t going to happen, but sure enough…,” she said.

All clothes racks were lifted and what couldn’t fit on shelves was hastily packed into boxes in the hope some stock could be salvaged.

Millers, like their store neighbours, had come off the peak season of Christmas and Boxing Day sales when 800mm of fetid floodwaters engulfed the shopping centre.

It was a devastating time for businesses forced to close for five months while the rebuild got underway.

“We ended up throwing everything, even though we lifted most of our stock because of damage,” store manager Linda Lockyer said.

“The whole lot of our store, absolutely everything, and we were fully stocked.”

She estimated 8000 items were in store, but wouldn’t hazard an estimate at the total value of the stock.

Pharmacy First area manager Jess Burrey defied orders and kept the doors open for Emerald residents to fill their prescriptions, despite the record flood headed for the town.

She lost an estimated $1 million worth of stock in the store, but given the time again, Ms Burrey said she would do it all again.

“For us, we didn’t have a lot of opportunity to pack up our stuff,” she said.

“We felt it was important to service the community so we were filling everybody’s prescriptions first.

“We weren’t meant to be open because it was the public holiday.”

Despite the store’s losses and almost-total destruction of the centre, Ms Burrey said the public remained first and foremost in her mind.

“In the duration of the flood, I ran a clinic at the Town Hall every day where people could come to get medicines,” she said. “We offered help and advice and things like that.”

But despite their business differences and struggles faced after the floods, every store had one simple message: “We’ve re-opened.”

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