Inclement weather causes problems for everybody. It’s not fun to slide up steep hills in the snow. And no one wants their automobile to be pocked with dents from a hail storm. But only recently did I understand such weather conditions present unique problems for small business owners like myself.

This realization came to me during Knoxville’s last major snow event. I had to decide whether Crown Cleaners would remain open despite the 6” of snow or close our doors until the roads were clearer. There were many factors to consider: the safety of my employees, the safety of my customers, the costs associated with closing during a normal business day, and the cost of remaining open when dry cleaning was probably the last thing on people’s minds. Closing, unfortunately, also meant customers who needed to pick up their garments would be unable to do so.

Ultimately, I decided to close for the entire day. But something unexpected happen. Unlike the previous snowfall, which stuck to the roads for a few days, this snow melted quickly. The roads were nearly clear halfway through the day. I considered changing my decision and opening both stores for the afternoon and evening. In the end, it didn’t feel right to request my employees, who had been told to take the day off, to come in to work. It was better that they, and myself, enjoy this extra time with our families.

Now, if Crown Cleaners was the Wal-Mart of the dry cleaning world, this snow wouldn’t have been an issue. We would have a large enough employee pool to draw from that someone would have been able to make it in. We could afford to stay open even if a single customer didn’t come in all day because our profit margin would be larger. And the business would be too large for me to have connections and true concern for the safety of my employees and customers. The problems presented that snowy day were only there because Crown Cleaners is a small, local business. And these problems, I suspect, apply to many small businesses.

Moving forward, I am going to reevaluate some of our company’s policies to make sure they fall in line with Crown Cleaners’ priorities. And, with this blog post, I am officially letting our customers know that in the event of future inclement weather, Crown Cleaners may be closed. I regret the inconvenience this may cause some of my customers, but I will make these tough decisions with the safety of my employees and my customers first. If we do ever need to close the doors during our normal business hours, social media will be the first place the news will be posted. I encourage all our customers to check out the Crown Cleaners Facebook page and Twitter account to help keep up with this and other news.


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