As the villages of Oak Park and River Forest prepare for the threat of a massive overnight blizzard, local retailers are rising to the challenge of planning around unpredictable weather patterns.

“We do plan to close early today,” said Julia Evans, marketing and community relations specialist for Whole Foods in River Forest. “We are usually open until 10 p.m. and we expect to close at 8, but if conditions worsen quickly, that may be earlier.”

Evans said Whole Foods has been experiencing higher-than-usual customer volume today, though the grocery store hasn’t yet run out of anything. She said the store hasn’t seen anyone panicking and stocking up on essentials like bottled water. “People are coming in, just getting things with the expectation that they couldn’t do their grocery shopping tomorrow,” said Evans. And it’s not just the necessities, although most shoppers are preparing for the potential storm fallout in one way or another. “A lot of people are getting comfort food, because they’re planning on just staying in with their loved ones and enjoying the snow together.”

Mike Barton, owner of Tasty Dog on Lake, said the restaurant is likely to close a bit earlier than the usual 9:30 p.m. this evening. “If it gets really bad, I’ll close early,” he said. Patronage has already been lower than usual. “It’s down a lot today. It’s been very slow,” he said.

Barton expects to close at 7:30 or 8 p.m. this evening, and tomorrow morning, the usual opening time has been pushed from 8 a.m. until at least 10 a.m. But if school is not in session, Barton expects a good amount of traffic from students. “If they close all the schools, normally we’re busier,” he said.

A manager at Chicken & Waffles said the restaurant plans to close early if the storm becomes bad enough, but he noted the restaurant has seen a regular stream of clientele so far.

Whole Foods is planning to open tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. instead of the usual 8 a.m. “Other than opening late, we’re just obviously giving a grace period for our team members to ensure that everybody gets here safely,” said Evans.

Those hours are subject to change, she said depending on conditions, and anyone interested in shopping at Whole Foods should call first or check the store’s Facebook page for regular updates.

Despite reports of a chaotic supermarket scene in Chicago, Evans said that though the store has been busy, shoppers are mostly calm and collected. “Everyone seems to be in pretty good spirits, as long as they’re planning early,” she said.

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