Businesses in and around Washington are getting ready to serve more customers than they’re accustomed to as thousands of visitors are expected here to view the total solar eclipse Monday.
Stores are stocking shelves heavily and beefing up staffing.
Washington could have upward of 30,000 visitors this weekend through Monday, and even more in the county, based on some predictions.
As visitors roll into the county, they may need quick refuelings at gas stations and mini-marts.
Brent Kluesner, vice president of seven Fas-Trip convenience stores in Franklin County, including locations in the eclipse epicenter of Union and Sullivan, said they are expecting a 20 percent increase in business.
“I would compare it to a Fair weekend in Washington,” he said. “We’ve been stocking up our stores all week.”
Kluesner added campers have already started arriving.
The Missouri Department of Transportation and local authorities have cautioned motorists about potential gridlock on local streets and highways before and after the eclipse.
“We will be running fuel all weekend,” Kluesner said. “That way we are full and none of our trucks will have to be on the roads Monday.”
Meanwhile, on the Washington riverfront, restaurants like Marquart’s Landing are getting ready for the eclipse by dreaming up drink specials.
Manager Tonya Webb said there will be more staff on hand for the eclipse crowd and the bar will be offering eclipse drinks and apparel.
Due to its proximity to the fairgrounds, where the Washington Chamber is hosting a viewing party, Moe’s Pizza is joining in on the eclipse excitement by opening on Monday, which is not normal practice.
Owner Jeff Mohesky says he and his staff have been working with the parks department to ensure the day goes smoothly for visitors and his potential customers.
“You really just never know, we could be packed or not have anybody,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of people at the park and they will be hungry.”
Mohesky estimates a 25 to 30 percent increase in business over a normal weeknight and has ordered extra supplies not only because he will be open an extra day, but because of the large crowds expected at the fairgrounds.
Grocers around town, including Schnucks and Walmart, are stocking up on goods and making sure stores will be staffed well enough for the expected crowd.
At Schnucks, eclipse-themed cookies and other bakery goods are being made and the store will give out free eclipse glasses while supplies last.
At Walmart, Store Manager Chris Marquart said staffing and parking is a main concern for management. He said the store is treating the day like any busy shopping day, akin to the tax-free weekend the first weekend of August.
Marquart said the store has stocked up on grocery goods, but is mainly focused on having enough staff at the ready and keeping the parking lot clear.
“A lot of times RVs like to park in our parking lot and things like that and we just want to make sure our customers can get to the store,” he said. “We don’t really have any great plan. We’re treating it as it would be a busy, busy normal day.”
At least one local company, Enduro Binders, plans to close early for the eclipse.
Mike Maune, Enduro president and CEO, said operations will stop at noon Monday.
“We are closing the plant at noon that day so our staff can watch it with friends and family,” he said.
The Sporlan Division of Parker Hannifin Corporation in Washington doesn’t plan on closing, but will be watching the eclipse. Eclipse glasses were purchased and Sporlan will be buying lunch for all employees.
The employees during the first shift will be allowed to bring lawn chairs to watch the eclipse during their lunch break.
The moon will begin crossing the sun at 11:48 a.m. Monday and the countdown to totality begins.
At 12:50 p.m., the sun will be more than half covered. At about 1:15 p.m., totality begins. At about 1:18 p.m., totality will end. At 2:43 p.m., the moon will finish eclipsing the sun.
Information for this story was compiled by Reporters Joe Barker, Kavahn Mansouri and Monte Miller.