An earthquake scare recently brought a wave of new business to the K-Tec Kitchen Mills & Mixer store where 72-hour survival kits and bulk grains were really selling well.

The store also moved a number of other emergency items that were in increased demand, such as portable power generators and wheat grinders.Now the Persian Gulf crisis is fueling business in the West Jordan store and three others in the Wasatch Front chain.

Maureen Knapp, the store manager, said the store has a number of regular customers who watch for sales on items they want for their personal food storage supply. She can also spot most customers right off who come into the store not having the slightest idea what they're looking for.

Even those customers don't hesitate to say they're buying storage foods because they fear food shortages because of the Persian Gulf crisis. A man came in several days ago planning to buy a 50-pound bag of wheat and left the store with 15 bags instead. "He insisted the store wouldn't be able to get any more, even when I told him we had a truckload coming in tomorrow. But he said `No, this is it.' "

Other customers pay with cash instead of check or credit card so there is no paper trail to let others know they have food stored. One customer even wanted to load his truck at night so no one could see.

People also admit they are buying storage foods they don't even like and hope they will never have to eat, Knapp said. "I don't enjoy selling to people out of a panic. I don't want to take advantage of their vulnerability."

Her approach is to sit panicky customers down and have them take a few deep breaths. "I tell them they'll still be here tomorrow." Then she finds out what kinds of things they eat so she can suggest what kinds of products they should buy.

Store owner Doug Bitter said he's seeing more purchases of large quantities of wheat by individuals lately than he ever has.

A popular notion is that an emergency that would move people to start cooking with their stored wheat would also be accompanied by shortages of power - prompting an interest in hand-crank wheat grinders.