Going back to basics for Y2K

February 27, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Re-enactors and people decorating their homes have been steady customers for the open-hearth pots, washboards and other old-fashioned items at O'Hurley's General Store for years.

Now, they're in demand by people anticipating millennium-related power disruptions, shortages and other problems, store proprietor G. Jay Hurley said.

On Saturday, Hurley manned a display of his low-tech wares at the Y2K Self-Reliance Fair, a day-long event focused on preparedness for the new millennium.

More than 150 people milled around displays set up on the first and second floors of the Shepherdstown Men's Club during the morning.

O'Hurley's wasn't the only business catering to concerns people have about the widespread system failures predicted because many programmers used two-digit dates instead of four-digit dates in the early days of computers.


Baltimore-based Atlantic Solar sent two salesmen to run a booth showcasing its primary and backup solar power systems for homes.

The company has been in business since 1987 but only in recent years has it started catering to consumers through its subsidiaries, Millennium Power Systems and Innovative Energy Systems, said salesman Jeff Miller.

People concerned about power grid failure because of Y2K computer glitches have boosted businesses, Miller said. He said sales in the first two months of 1999 were double sales for the same period last year.

"I get five calls a day, people concerned with power," he said.

Nancy Benjamin, owner of Health Unlimited, had a display of air and water purification products that she sells in the shop behind her Shepherdstown home.

She was glad to participate in the event, sponsored by the local citizen's action group Y2K Shepherdstown, she said.

Trying to prepare by yourself is overwhelming, said Benjamin, 65, who thinks a community approach is key to readiness.

Y2K Shepherdstown committee members staffed booths focusing on various Y2K topics, including economic stability and what utilities are doing to be ready for the millennium.

Manning the utilities booth, Shepherdstown resident Scott Tsukuda, 26, said he has gotten less pessimistic about the effects of Y2K glitches on everyday life as he has delved into the topic.

Tsukuda, an aquaculture researcher at the Freshwater Institute in Shepherdstown, said the information he has gathered on utilities tells him he should expect brief, rolling power outages.

The event provided an opportunity for Ginny Harford, 34, of Fairfax, Va., to examine items she'd considered buying over the Internet to prepare for Y2K.

Harford, who is in the midst of building a Y2K-ready home in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., said she now knows she couldn't tolerate the smell of the kerosene lamp she'd considered buying.

The Herald-Mail Articles