“Is that mango pineapple? What would you mix with that,” a customer asked, eyeing small bottles of vodka behind the counter at Gator’s Liquor.
It’s one of a few liquor stores still open in Surfside Beach and the surrounding area as Hurricane Florence hovers in the Atlantic Ocean, packing wind speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. ABC Package Store in Aynor on U.S 501 also isn’t closing for now.
“I’ll be here again Saturday unless we float away,” said Robert Pereksta, Sr., owner of Gator’s Liquor on US 17.
It was the first ABC store to open in the south strand area, he said. The building has been in Surfside for 64 years. Since then, dozens have joined, selling wine, whiskey, tequila and more to tourists and residents alike in the area.
Lately, Pereksta has been selling a lot of vodka. “You can mix it with anything or drink it straight,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Jamie and Jill Register of nearby Hunters Ridge stopped at Gator’s Liquor to pick up reinforcements for their Hurricane Florence provisions stockpile.
“We got Cheetos, three different kinds of tortilla chips and two kinds of salsa,” Jamie Register said.
“And Hot Fries,” Jill Register added.
They planned to pair those snacks with a bottle of Lunazul Blanco tequila and Jägermeister. Pereksta grew up in Florida and lived in New Jersey before moving to the South Carolina coast. He bought Gator’s Liquor 10 years ago.
It’s a fun job, he says. Hurricane Florence can’t ruin the fun.
“I’ve been through all of ‘em,” he said of hurricanes, major storms and weather disasters.
Then, he sold $4 in scratch off lottery tickets to a customer.
Mark Price, owner of the ABC Package Store in Aynor on U.S 501, isn’t closing for now. His store has bags outside the windows, but they’re aren’t filled with sand. They’re filled with corn.
“It’s still deer season,” Price said.
While he is keeping an eye on the weather, he hopes to open up Friday. He lives only a few blocks from his store and can walk there if he needs to.
“I’d rather sit here than sit at home for three days,” he said.
His store, opened by his father in the 1960s, isn’t in a flood-prone area. Price said he didn’t close for hurricanes in the past.
Being right on U.S. 501, he was affected by the lane reversals earlier this week. He said that cars were flying by his store as people rushed to evacuate.
On Thursday business was slower, with people coming in slowly. He said he didn’t know many people who left the area ahead of Florence, but knows a few people seeking shelter in the storm shelter at Aynor Middle School.