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Tracy McCue doesn’t know how many people will gather in Huntington to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, but she’s pretty sure she’ll have a cold drink to sell to every last one of them.
McCue, who owns T&T Country Store in Huntington, which is near the center of the eclipse’s path of totality, said she has been “spending every penny I have” to stockpile soda, water, beer and a variety of foods.
She’s heard estimates that several thousand people will congregate in and near Huntington, along Interstate 84 about 45 miles southeast of Baker City, with many likely to arrive Thursday.
“I have pallets stacked all over,” said McCue, who owns the only grocery store in the town of 445. “I quadrupled my normal soda order.”
McCue, who bought the store earlier this year, said she has been able to rearrange displays to make room for the stacks of soda and other beverages.
She had to buy a chest freezer to store the perishable items such as sandwiches, hot dogs and foods that will be deep-fried.
McCue, whose business includes fuel pumps, said her main concern is running her 2,000-gallon gasoline tank and 1,000-gallon diesel tank dry.
She normally has fuel delivered twice a week, but she’s hoping her distributor can top off her tanks every day during the eclipse weekend.
Although T&T Country Store normally closes daily at 8 p.m., McCue said she’s expecting to stay open at least until 10 p.m. starting Wednesday or Thursday.
“We’ll go from there,” she said. “I’m not turning anyone away.”
McCue said she has arranged to have extra employees to handle the hordes of customers she’s expecting.
Even if the predictions for eclipse visitors turn out to be exaggerated, McCue isn’t concerned about being stuck with merchandise.
“I already told my vendors, don’t be mad at me if I don’t order from you for six months,” she said with a chuckle.
In Sumpter, where the period of totality will last about 1 minute, 47 seconds — about 22 seconds less than in Huntington — Angie Borello, who owns the Gold Post store, said she has stocked extra ice, water and other beverages and snack foods.
“And I’ll make sure there’s money in the ATM,” Borello said.
Her business also includes the state-licensed liquor store, and Borello said she increased her liquor order in advance of the eclipse.
Both Albertsons and Safeway stores in Baker City are preparing for the waves of visiting eclipse watchers, as well as the locals who plan on stocking up before the going gets rough.
Which is precisely what grocery managers, along with Baker County officials, are urging residents to do.
“It would be a huge help on us if everyone stocked up on everything they needed by Wednesday,” said Brandon Sweet, who manages the Safeway store. “We would be much better suited to handle the rush if we only had to worry about the outside customers.”
Isaac Gibson of the Baker City Herald contributed to this story.
See more in the Monday Aug. 14,2017 issue of the Baker City Herald.