Breaking News

Winter months mean creative sidelines

January 11, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

MUNCIE – January 4, 2009 (The StarPress) -- From the hardware store that sells shovels to companies that plow huge parking lots, businesses that provide essential goods and services for Indiana's winter months look forward to the season.

For many, winter business is a sideline, although it can be an important one.

At Dalton & Co. Professional Cleaning Supply, winter supplies like ice melting products amounts to about four percent of the company's annual business, owner Sue Dalton said.

But that's still substantial: This year, Dalton ordered more than 50 skids of ice melt. That amounts to about 3,000 bags, which went fast due to icy conditions early in the season.

"As of right now, we have none," Dalton said recently, although she's optimistic about getting some new supply on hand this season.

Snow isn't an essential ingredient to good winter business. Cold weather means vehicles with marginal batteries might need new ones.

"On a day when it's 15 or 20 degrees, not really cold, if a battery is weak, it won't start," said Jesse Young, manager of Battery Masters. "When it's zero and there's a wind chill, any battery might not start."

The most visible winter business has to be the legion of snowplow operators who turn out every year.

For some plow operators, like Jeff Burke, the business is an important sidelight in part because it keeps his existing workforce employed.

Burke, owner of Advanced Carpet Care, has a ready workforce of carpet installers and cleaners.

"But when there's three feet of snow, nobody wants to put carpet in their house and business slows down," Burke said. "So [snow removal] keeps my guys busy.

"When you own your own business and have eight or 10 employees, you feel responsible for them," Burke added. "They need to buy food and pay the rent. You hate to tell everybody they're done with work until spring."

Although Burke's snow removal service does some residential work, his fleet of trucks, Bobcats and other equipment tackles jobs with high priority -- like medical offices -- and big jobs. Working as a subcontractor, Burke's crew cleans the parking lot of the Muncie Meijer store.

"That's our biggest job," he said. "That takes about 15 or 16 man-hours. We might have two trucks and two Bobcats on that. They want that lot cleared to the edges."

In more than a decade of snow removal, Burke has perfected his assessment of the difficulty of each snow removal job.

"For a typical parking lot, if we have two inches of snow, we can maybe do it in 20 (minutes)," he said. "If we have a foot and a half of snow, we can be there an hour and a half. But it depends on the kind of snow. If you can make a snowball, it's hard to push."

Burke said the key to snow removal is when it snows. A lot of overnight snowfall means plow operators must rush to get their jobs done before businesses and offices open. Wind also plays havoc with snow removal.

"We've been out at night and after we finished, it all blew back and [the customer] calls and asks, 'When are you coming out?'"

Dalton is hopeful about getting more ice melt in stock for her customers, who can include individuals, snow removal companies and commercial properties. She's not optimistic about the long-term picture, however.

"It's going to be a tough season for all the stores," she said.

Because the weather can be hard to predict, how businesses gear up for winter can vary greatly. Some say they watch long-range weather forecasts.At Dalton & Co. -- where supplies for winter must be ordered by August -- the owners use an old-fashioned method of gauging their needs.

"We use the Farmer's Almanac," Dalton said. "And we kind of guess."

Last year, Dalton sold all but about 10 bags of ice melt, so her forecasting abilities -- and those of the almanac -- must be good.

Because of the long hours in harsh elements, snow business can take its toll, Burke said.

"I've sat in a truck for 18 or 20 hours," he said. "It gets old. But my sons want to go out and do it. They enjoy it more than I do."

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to i Cleaning Specialist Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

The 2013 Experience Convention & Trade Show

A look back in photos at the 2013 Experience Convention & Trade Show in Las Vegas.

THE MAGAZINE

ICS Cleaning Specialist Magazine

cover_image

2014 April

Take a look at the April 2014 issue with features on air movers, going green, carpet cleaning and new products & technologies.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Social Media

Social media is a good way to regularly keep in touch and interact with current clients and reach potential ones. What social mediums do you use in your cleaning/restoration business?
View Results Poll Archive

THE ICS STORE

Get Paid! book cover
Get Paid! (ebook)
Over 30 authors – over 40 articles…from attorneys, contractors, consultants, instructors and others, both inside and outside the restoration industry. R & R, C & R and Cleanfax, opened their archives and gave us the best they had, other chapters were created just for the “Get Paid!” book and its readers. And every one of them has ideas for how to get paid what you are owed.

More Products

ICS DIRECTORY AND BUYING GUIDE

Director_Buyer.jpgThe premier resource and reference guide for the cleaning and restoration industries.

Click here to view

TRUCKMOUNT EQUIPMENT AND ACCESSORIES GUIDE

Truckmount.jpgEquipment listings and specifications from the leading industry manufacturers.

Click here to view

STAY CONNECTED

facebook_40.png twitter_40px.png youtube_40px.pngcrc logo