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The Boston Globe

Business

Storm grinds Boston’s bustle to a halt

Longfellow Bridge

Barry Chin / Globe Staff

Traffic was minimal on the Longfellow Bridge Friday.

Stock traders and bankers huddled over their desks in otherwise quiet downtown offices across Boston on the morning of Friday’s storm -- essential workers in this financial town.

Firms from Fidelity Investments to State Street Corp. let thousands of people work from home, but with stock and bond markets open as usual, the core investment staffs at Boston’s mutual fund and money management firms were in the office.

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Elsewhere, though, workers were jamming South Station and other transit hubs early Friday afternoon, trying to get well ahead of the 3:30 closure of the MBTA system, and the 4 p.m. ban on driving put into place by Governor Deval Patrick.

Pioneer Investments, with 500 employees in Boston, closed its downtown office for the day, for all but “essential” staff. The bond firm Loomis, Sayles & Co., sent everyone home who didn’t have to stay by 1 p.m. Banks opened as usual but sent most folks home by noon.

At South Station, crowds waited to catch the last trains home. At the Red Line platform, Samuel Richards, toting a well-used shovel for when he got home.waiting at the Red Line.

“I don’t think we’re going to get 2 feet. Maybe 6 or 8 inches but not 2 feet,” he said.

Dick Newmeier, a lawyer in the city, was headed home early to Lexington, but the work day wasn’t over: he sat on a bench at the station, with his briefcase open and a large box of manila envelopes and papers.

“As a practical matter, the storm won’t affect work. I’m taking plenty of work with me and it’ll be a busy weekend,” Newmeier said.

In Kendall Square, the area’s hub for high-tech start-ups and software giants like Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., slowed to the speed of snail mail on Friday.

Noah Cushing, a software engineer at MediaFriends Inc., a mobile software company, was the only one in his office Friday morning. While the company closed for the day, he decided to venture in because his family was home, too. An overexcited 5-year-old eager to go sledding wouldn’t make it easy to work from home, he said.

But a quiet office did. “I probably got about two days of work done in a half day,” Cushing said.

The neighborhood around his office, usually buzzing with tech workers, was “not quite Sunday- morning quiet, but pretty quiet,” he said.

Many other start-up types in Kendall stayed home, working with colleagues through online messaging and video services like Skype or Google Hangout.

“Anyone who commutes from the ‘burbs isn’t there today,” said Alex Cote, co-founder of a start-up called Cloze Inc., which is about a week away from launching a new social media product.

Business travelers at Logan International Airport Friday morning were relieved to be getting in -- and out -- of Boston before the snow hit later in the day.

Don Cloonan of Woburn was supposed to fly back to Boston from a trade show in Orlando Friday night, but rescheduled to arrive Friday morning so he wouldn’t miss his kids’ hockey and soccer games over the weekend. As it turned out, the sporting events were canceled anyway. So what did he plan to do instead? “Shovel and drink wine,” he said.

Three workers from the St. Lucia tourism board were resigned to spending the weekend holed up at the W Boston Hotel, unable to return to their 80-degree home in the Caribbean after meetings in Boston this week. But when one of them, Nerdin St. Rose, called American Airlines and found seats on an 11 a.m. flight, they race to Logan to get out.

The swanky Revere Hotel near the Boston Common decided to have fun with the weather, offering up a $99 rate for Massachusetts residents displaced by blizzard Nemo. The hotel was throwing in complimentary hot chocolate starting at noon, and a free screening of the movie TED in the evening, accompanied by “Hot TEDdies” at the bar.

The hotel said its management was pitching in to strip beds and clean rooms, to allow housekeeping staff to catch public transportation home before the 3:30 shutdown.

The Hungry Mother restaurant in Cambridge blasted out an e-mail that said, “The Blizzard bringing you down? Us too,” and canceled Friday night dinner. Come back Saturday, they said.

Ordinary shopping shut down early in the day, with malls from Chestnut Hill to Cape Cod closing by 2 p.m., according to Simon Malls. By 1:30 p.m. in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, many stores had closed down or posted signs they’d be closing early. While many grocery stores had been crushed with business over the past two days, by 3 p.m. Friday, BJ’s Clubs and Shaw’s planned to close.

Entertainment venues were calling off performances left and right. Boston-area theaters and the symphony cancelled Friday night performances. Even the movie theaters were dark at AMC Loews Boston Common, at least through Saturday.

The Charles River Hotel in Cambridge said it had received a number of cancellations due to the storm -- with one notable exception. Actor Kiefer Sutherland was staying Friday night. The “24” star was in town to be celebrated at Harvard as the Hasty Pudding theatrical group’s Man of the Year. Because of the storm, the event was to take place at the hotel instead of at Harvard.

General Manager Alex Attia said more than 200 people were expected to attend the dinner--many who live nearby. Hotel staff planned to stay the night, Attia said. “It’s a pajama party.”

Globe staff members Callum Borchers, Katie Johnston, Jenifer McKim, Megan Woolhouse contributed to this report.

Beth Healy can be reached at bhealy@globe.com.
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