Lockahrt plumbing retailers short on supply, long on creativity
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
When forecasts of dangerously low temperatures began to surface two weeks ago, ACE hardware and Wilson and Riggin Lumber in Lockhart began to stock up on fittings in anticipation of burst pipes.
No one anticipated this.
“This is probably the storm of the century,” Stephanie Riggin, owner of Riggin Lumber told LPR on Feb. 22. “Even though you try to prepare, as a merchant, in advance, there is still no way to have that crystal ball to know what to get. We tried to order ahead early, and got in as much as we could.”
When LPR visited both stores on Monday the parking lots were busy, and the plumbing isles were full of homeowners. Riggin reported a huge increase of customers to her store compared to normal business. Even though supply was limited, her staff was doing what it could to help people get water running to their homes again.
“Right now we are being pretty creative,” Riggin said. “We are helping people put together stuff that you wouldn’t normally do on a plumbing job, but it will get their water running or it will get it capped off to stop leaks.”
Pat Saldana, an assistant manager at ACE hardware in Lockhart, reported a similar increase in volume of customers, saying the plumbing isle had 20 people in it at times. The ACE was out of CPVC fittings at the time of our visit, but still had Pex pipe, and other pieces to try and make a patch.
“A lot of people are adapting because there are no fittings,” Saldana told LPR on Feb. 22. She said customers were capping off Ts if they couldn’t find elbows, or using Pex pipe to connect broken parts—anything to get water running again.
ACE had also pre-ordered supplies in anticipation for the storm, but found those quickly depleted due to the high number of residents whose pipes burst in this storm compared to past storms.
“It’s not effecting just one person, or one type of person, or a group of people,” Saldana said. “It’s effecting everybody.”
Saldana said her warehouse isn’t showing a new shipment getting to the distribution center until Feb. 26. Then it would be another week before it gets to stores. Riggin said some of her suppliers were reporting March 1 before new stocks would arrive.
With many retailers showing dwindling supplies, homeowners were having to be creative finding fittings. Some residents dug into their personal tool boxes and set out the few fittings they had on their porch for people to take. Barter systems were born, trades were made, and everyone tried to help how they could.
Kyle Hahn, known around town as “The Green Guy,” saw the need for pipe and fittings and decided to tap into his extensive collection and sell them garage sale style.
“When we heard there was some shortages of materials, and people were having trouble finding materials they needed, he brought up a bunch of his surplus materials,” Kyle’s brother Kelcy Hahn said in an interview with LPR on Feb. 22.
Kelcy reported they had were grabbing the supplies from a shipping container and sorting the fittings and pipe. They posted the several shelves worth of fittings, and several dozen length of pipe to Facebook Marketplace, selling them for a quarter, or $1, dollar, depending on the piece.
“We tried to put as much as we could on the market,” Kelcy said. “He doesn’t want to try to take advantage of anybody.”
When LPR was at the site in Maxwell (191 Mill Road), Kelcy and wife Jalaine were measuring length of pipe and cutting to meet customers needs. Some of the pipe had broken ends, but they were able to cut the foot or two residents needed to get back up and going again.
Kelcy reported most of the valves had already been sold, but they still had caps which could help isolate a leak and get water to the rest of the house if needed.
They also had repurposed lumber and materials, such as doors, and frames, from old mobile homes that had been demo’d. The repurposed lumber and mobile home materials could be helpful for those with damage to their homes from the storm.
“if they don’t have a lot of money to spend on materials, they can reuse the materials we recover,” Kelcy said.