Inside a Houston ‘command center’

Cypress Ace Hardware delivers on a promise to stay open, and stay helpful

Batteries and flashlights were big sellers at the store that would not close.

On Sunday night, before the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey, the following post appeared on the Facebook page of Cypress Ace Hardware: “We will be open tomorrow. We have batteries, generators, tarps, plugs and pumps. Whether you need supplies or just a dry place to take a minute, we are here. We are not leaving.”

All around Texas, hardware and building supply dealers are performing the difficult task of remaining open for business – and open for relief -- in a major catastrophe. Cypress Ace Hardware is one of those with a front row seat on the disaster, and the unfolding recovery. The Houston store has been a command center for all of Ace in the northern part of the city since before the storm.

Just two-and-half miles from Cypress Ace in northwest Houston, the water reached to the red part of stop signs. But the store has been open through it all. And while other retailers who are friends of the Murffs have three feet of water in their stores, Cypress Ace was spared. The store played the role of command center for other Ace stores by serving as a will-call holding zone after receiving five truck loads of storm-related products. Ace retailers who could reach the store could pick up product on site, as opposed to waiting for a separate delivery.

“We’re tired, but we’re OK,” said Susan Murff, who owns the store with her husband Bill Murff. “It’s such a nice thing to be here when customers are so happy to see us they hug us when they walk in.” Top sellers have been batteries, flashlights, gas cans and generators (at left).

Bill Murff and the couple’s son, Jason – a 26-year-old Army veteran – slept on cots in the store since Hurricane Harvey touched down. Part of the reason: to prevent looters.

Susan Murff spoke with HBSDealer on a sunny Thursday when water levels were dropping in some parts of the city, and still rising in others.  She said more than 30,000 people remain in shelters. She expects a new phase of the post storm to kick in soon – the clean up.

We have supply trucks coming in and people here are beginning to leave the shelters,” she said. “That will mark the next big rush of people buying bleach and other cleaning products.”

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