Monday, April 12, 1999

Some businesses get back to work, others salvage what they can




BY SHEILA McLAUGHLIN and AMY HIGGINS
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[tornado]
Lottery machines lay scattered in what is left of Interlott, a company based out of the Blue Ash Industrial Park. Cincinnati Enquirer/Craig Ruttle
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        As an army of employees moved furniture and equipment into a makeshift headquarters for Interlott Inc. on Sunday, the company's president counted his blessings.

        Had the tornado struck 45 minutes later, David Nichols is certain about 30 of his employees — the company's entire service department — would have been killed.

        “So we're viewing all this as a minor inconvenience. We don't really have any problems,” he said, viewing the damage in the Blue Ash Industrial Park on Sunday.

        Interlott, which employs about 200 and manufactures and services lottery vending machines, lost two of its three buildings when the tornado plowed through northeast Hamilton County.

        But even as bulldozers sat ready to tear down buildings in the section of the industrial park closest to Interstate 71, Interlott was back in business.

        Since Friday, Mr. Nichols and a group of employees had spent their time at the park or at a hotel, where Interlott had set up a “command center” so workers could rest or take showers.

        Sunday morning, employees moved three truck loads of office equipment, computers, and files into the manufacturing plant on Creek Road.

        Colored Post-it notes were plastered to doors of offices so executives could find their desks.

        The computer system — the service department's “nerve center” for monitoring Interlott machines nationwide — was up and running by afternoon, and workers were calling out for pizza.

[tornado]
Don Johnson, owner of the Donato's Pizza in Symmes Twp., works to salvage equipment with his employees Sunday. Cincinnati Enquirer/Craig Ruttle
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        “We're not losing any time,” Mr. Nichols said.

        Sunday was also the first day many business owners in the retail strips at Montgomery and Kemper roads in Symmes Township got access to their stores for cleanup.

        “We got some stuff yesterday (Saturday), but they really didn't want anybody in,” said Don Johnson, owner of the Donato's Pizza in Harper's Station.

        Repairs were in their second day at Don Pablo's restaurant up the block, at 11363 Montgomery Road. Kevin Jeter, owner of Jeter Construction of Lexington, said officials from the Bedford, Texas-based restaurant chain called him Friday shortly after the tornado to enlist his help rebuilding the store.

        “Indiana and Ohio are good markets for us,” said Ron Rexroad, senior construction manager for Don Pablo's “Get here, get on it, and get it back open.”

        Mr. Jeter said the restaurant hopes to reopen around April 19.



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