It’s taken two years, but brides are back in spades for one Alabama coastal party rental business.
Miller’s Grand Events, Daphne, Ala., was one of several businesses adversely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 people on April 20, 2010. The oil spill, considered one of the largest ever, took a toll on several industries — oil, seafood and all those who work with them.
The rental industry in the area saw a myriad of effects, including changes in the business market, rental customers and rental equipment related to the disaster. For Miller’s, it meant business almost ceased.
“The cancellations started coming within two weeks of the spill,” says Stanette Miller, Miller’s owner. “When the oil spill happened, the national news media picked it up and I think they overstated what was going on. People who normally came in for weddings and events, and any bride that was coming in, cancelled and that’s a big
part of business for us.”
In addition, she says, “caterers were not renting from us, nor were event planners. It was dead for quite a while. There were crews working the whole time and the smell was worse than anything. We didn’t have any larger business, unless it was the oil companies, until late October. They had gotten most of the beaches in our area clean by then.”
From April to October 2010, the only business Miller’s had was tents requested by the local oil company representatives and for local events.
“We didn’t do much of anything because it was hurting all the businesses in our area. If we did anything, it was small local birthday parties or with the oil companies,” she says. “We cut everybody’s hours and we let go of three people. We were already affected by the economy. When the oil spill came it was just devastating.”
While business lagged, she and other local businesses watched as out-of-state companies came in to set up tents, and handle repairs and maintenance.
“I didn’t know to go about pursuing some of the business with the oil companies. Some of the local contractors called for local companies, but there were some missed opportunities with the national oil companies. They have companies they sign with before these things happen. It’s hard to get your name in that hat after the fact,” she says.
Also, since the initial reports weren’t terrible, she didn’t file an emergency claim for lost revenue right away. “In hindsight, the minute it happened, I should have done that. The oil cleanup dragged on and I filed eight months later. By that point, the money was much tighter, there were more questions and more paperwork.
I’d never been through an oil spill before, so I didn’t know how long it was going to take,” she says.
Her advice to others who experience the unexpected is to act fast. “File your claim as soon as you can and tighten up more quickly,” Miller says.
Miller’s limped through the rest of 2010 and picked up more business in the spring of 2011. “It was a little below, but much better than the year before,” Miller says.
Much of that was due to local advertising through the Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce and money that BP Oil had given to area communities to advertise, she says.
“The chamber spent a lot on that campaign and it helped. It was on national media. This summer was good at the beach and we probably will hire more people in the spring. We are going to have to hire at least two people in March,” she says.
Vendors have been patient as well, she says, which helped with buying needed items.
“The bridal business is back now. We’ve booked a lot of brides in for this spring, so that business is back,” she says. “I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel now.”