Power out at Midtown business but employer pays workers anyway

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The number of MLGW customers still without power seems to be getting smaller by the hour.

Those still without electricity are being asked to have patience, but understandably that virtue may be in short supply especially if you're a small business owner.

We found out, though, it's true how the worst of times often brings out the best in people.

"Well, early Sunday morning we realized we didn't have any power down here."

Mike Cooper, owner of Mercury Valet on Madison Avenue, said his business is at a standstill.

After almost a week, he has only about two-thirds of his power back. But not near enough to handle the mountain of dirty clothes needing attention.

"We're stuck. We don't have the power to operate the equipment. And as long as that's the case, it's an avalanche and we're underneath it," said Cooper.

That means no washing, dry cleaning or steam pressing.

Racks are full of clean clothes, ready to be picked up, but the carousel won't budge.

"So we walk around manually to get the clothes that have already been processed prior to the storm," said Cooper.

Cooper said the "three-phase" power system, as he calls it, at his cleaner allows for a few basics: like a computer and some low-wattage lighting.

"But it's not enough for a generator, a compressor for air conditioning for example," said Cooper.

Cooper decided to keep his business fully staffed and is paying his 15 employees full salary during the down time.

He believes it's the "right thing to do."

"And that's because I truly do feel affection for my employees," said Cooper.

It's a gesture workers like Joyce Caldwell are overwhelmed by.

"Oh I think that's the greatest thing on the world. Mike is the nicest guy I've ever worked for. He's always trying to take care of his employees," said Joyce Caldwell.

Fathima Jayah has worked at Mercury Valet for 16 years.

"He is still paying and I'm thankful for that. I'm a single mom, I need to work and make some money so I can pay the bills," said Jayah.

And while customers have been steadily dropping off dirty clothes,  there's no way of knowing for sure when they'll be cleaned.

But customer Larry Jackson is sticking by his favorite cleaner.

"MLGW doin' a good job. But they need to come on and get Mercury Valet power back on so I can get my clothes," said Jackson.

Workers at MLGW told Cooper the problem should be an easy fix. It's just a matter of assigning a crew to make the repair.

No word on when that might be.