CarMax, other stores reopen as Florence lingers

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The potential for more flooding loomed on days after the Florence eye had left the Carolinas. Photo credit: Bloomberg

UPDATED: 19-9-2018 15:57 ET – adds comments from NADA

The last of the CarMax stores that were closed last week when Hurricane Florence fell on the southeast of the US was reopened on Wednesday, a spokeswoman confirmed.

The retailer had climbed eight locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia before the storm, and all stores were open Tuesday, with the exception of a Fayetteville, N.C. location that was reopened on Wednesday.

The company said in an e-mail that the first reviews showed little damage to stores that were open to the hurricane. However, it added: "We have a new store in Wilmington, N.C., which will be opened in the coming weeks, and we are still working on assessing the impact on this location."

Wilmington is part of an area in southeastern North Carolina that became the victim of Florence when the storm landed as a hurricane of category 1. Donald Latham, who owns the Parkway or Wilmington group of stores there, said the storm had made a mess of the city, but his stores seemed to be in order.

Sonic Automotive, which has a handful of stores in the Charlotte, N.C. area, remained unaffected. "We were open Monday on Monday," says Jeff Dyke, executive vice president of operations.

Other dealers in the coastal area affected by Florence were less fortunate and reported wind damage as well as crowded supplies and stores.

And the potential for more flooding loomed on days after the Florence eye had left the Carolinas. Sixteen rivers in North Carolina were in a flood phase and three others were expected on Wednesday or Thursday, said the governor of the state, Roy Cooper, Tuesday. The storm had caused at least 36 deaths on Wednesday afternoon and thousands of people stayed in shelters.

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Steve Cella, who owns Cella Ford in New Bern, N.C., said he was open on Monday with a skeleton of employees. Neither his shop nor his inventory had any significant damage, but other dealers and residents of the area did not do so well.

"Many of our employees have lost cars and homes to flooding," Cella said in an e-mail. "This area has withstood quite some of these storms over the years, but it has done the most damage here in more than 60 years." The city is already bouncing back, but many people need help. "

NADA help

The National Automobile Dealers Association has so far received 56 requests for assistance from its emergency relief fund and expects this number to grow, said Jonathan Collegio, NADA senior vice president of public affairs.

"It's still a bit slow in North Carolina," he said, adding a number of dealers who have contacted NADA have still not been able to open their stores.

Employees of a dealership and their families, affected by a natural disaster, can file requests for assistance and then have an authorized representative of the dealer company sign for the paperwork, said Collegio. The fund then pays a maximum of $ 1,500, depending on the damage and insurance cover or lack thereof. Collegio said that the fund typically pays out payments "within a few days" of receiving applications.

The fund has spent more than $ 7 million in aid to the dealership and their families since 1992, Collegio said. NADA processed 1,363 applications for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

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Danielle Szatkowski contributed to this report.