After nearly 35 years, Western New Yorkers are still heeding the late Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin's advice: When it snows, they grab a six-pack and stay home.
Matt Lenz and his girlfriend Sara McMahon of Grand Island usually spend Saturday nights out at the bar with a big group of friends. But Saturday's snowstorm gave them an excuse to stay in and relax. After picking up ingredients for a pot of chili at Tops Markets Saturday afternoon, they stopped into Consumer's Beverages in Amherst to pick up some beer.
"This way, no one's asking us to go out. We can just sit inside and watch Netflix," Lenz said.
Both Tops Markets and Wegmans see a spike in beer sales when storm predictions hit the radar, and both grocery chains have systems in place to make sure stores are well stocked in advance. "Indulgent items," such as ice cream, pop and chips are big sellers, too, according to Kathleen Sautter, a Tops spokeswoman.
"Shoppers tend to start loading up on items at the first word of a storm, and it builds from there, only slowing down once the weather event actually begins," said Michele Mehaffy, a Wegmans spokeswoman.
We might not have any milk or bread but we have plenty of beer 🥶🙌🏻 ready for the storm?!
— ConsumersBeer (@ConsumersBeer) January 19, 2019
Still, Western New York consumers weren't taking any chances.
Kevin Webb of Amherst loaded two 30-packs of Coors Light into his trunk Saturday afternoon. He had plans to plow his driveway, then hunker down at home for the weekend. Jose Matias of the Town of Tonawanda opted for a 30-pack of Labatt Ice.
"There's no way they're getting caught on an NFL weekend without enough wine or beer," said Bill Caputi, owner of Caputi's Liquor.
Peter Andrzejewski of Try-It Distributing stocks beer coolers at stores in Erie and Niagara Counties. He said things were busier than usual leading up to the storm, as consumers planned ahead. But he knows from experience that even the worst weather won't keep a determined consumer away.
He recalled the November storm of 2014, when snow fell as fast as five inches per hour.
"When people genuinely freak out, they'll go out no matter how bad it is," he said. "I couldn't even get to my route, but I saw people walking down Seneca Street with a case of beer under each arm."
Domestic brands like Natural Ice, Busch and Bud Lite tend to sell out first during storms, when customers are looking for quantity over quality, retailers said. But Consumer's Beverages was also selling a lot of craft beer, particularly Hayburner from Buffalo's Big Ditch Brewing Co. and, of course, Flying Bison Brewing Co.'s Thundersnow IPA.
"They're saying they have to get their 'essentials,' " Boyle said. "A couple of people have mentioned, 'Hey, I gotta get my six-pack for the storm like Jimmy Griffin said.' "