Ohio flood nearly sinks Rossi Pasta

A flood that washed into southeastern Ohio in mid-September could have seriously dampened Rossi Pasta’s business. But the gourmet pasta manufacturer/marketer not only survived the ordeal but ended up with fall/holiday sales slightly ahead of the previous year’s.

The flood, courtesy of heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ivan, hit Sept. 18 and caused the Ohio River to rise 22 feet in 24 hours, says Rossi Pasta president/owner Frank Christy. The company’s riverfront location in Marietta, OH — about 150 miles south of Pittsburgh — was in the path of the damaging waters. Christy, his family, and his staff of 15 made it to the headquarters early on Sept. 18 to move essential items such as pasta labels to higher shelves. “We would have been in trouble if it had been necessary to reprint those labels,” says Christy. The floods damaged only items left on the lower shelves, which included some gift baskets and pasta.

While Rossi’s store remained closed for a month after the flood, its operations were up and running by Sept. 27 thanks to a speedy relocation. To help businesses affected by the flood, the local zoning board lifted its usual zoning approval process to allow for easy corporate relocation. “Had they not done that, we would not have been able to survive,” says Christy. The company moved its manufacturing plant and fulfillment center to two facilities in Marietta. The cost of relocating accounted for about half of Rossi’s $100,000 loss due to the flood; 25% came from lost inventory; and 25% was the result of lost retail sales for a month.

It certainly could have been much worse. Rossi’s phones were down only for two business days. Fewer than 50 orders were delayed, and those only by a few days, says Christy. Employees put in additional hours to help clean up the store, with volunteers from local nonprofit organizations and institutions pitching in. At press time, the final 2004 sales figures were not in, but Christy says the 24-year-old company was up slightly in sales over 2003. September and October were below projections, but November and December were stronger compared to 2003.

Christy is hoping in the next six months to find a facility big enough to house both manufacturing and distribution. The store will remain along the riverfront — even though the Ohio River flooded again on Jan. 8 and brought more than a foot of water into the store. No products were damaged, but it remains a high-risk location. Nonetheless, Christy says, “that area is the center of tourism activity in the summertime.”

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