Breaking News Bar
updated: 1/12/2012 5:06 AM

Snow alert spells relief for some suburban businesses

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Shovels and ice scrapers are fully stocked at Ace Hardware in Elgin. The mild weather has slowed demand for snow removal items.

       Shovels and ice scrapers are fully stocked at Ace Hardware in Elgin. The mild weather has slowed demand for snow removal items.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Cold weather-dependent businessman Bob Sadler of Glen Ellyn can't wait for today's snow to rejuvenate his business, which has ailed due to warm winter weather.

       Cold weather-dependent businessman Bob Sadler of Glen Ellyn can't wait for today's snow to rejuvenate his business, which has ailed due to warm winter weather.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes at Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle even with the lack of natural snow. But they're encountering fewer people on the slopes.

       Skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes at Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle even with the lack of natural snow. But they're encountering fewer people on the slopes.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • The mild start to winter has left Ace Hardware in Elgin with plenty of snow removal inventory.

       The mild start to winter has left Ace Hardware in Elgin with plenty of snow removal inventory.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Customers walk past an array of snowblowers and throwers without a second glance Monday at Ace Hardware in Elgin.

       Customers walk past an array of snowblowers and throwers without a second glance Monday at Ace Hardware in Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Snowboarders take to the slopes at the Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle even with the lack of natural snow.

       Snowboarders take to the slopes at the Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle even with the lack of natural snow.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Cold weather-dependent businessman Bob Sadler of Glen Ellyn has had his fleet of snow removal equipment ready to go for weeks now.

       Cold weather-dependent businessman Bob Sadler of Glen Ellyn has had his fleet of snow removal equipment ready to go for weeks now.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Cold weather-dependent businessman Bob Sadler of Glen Ellyn can't wait to rejuvenate his snow removal business, which has ailed due to warm winter weather. Above, Sadler polishes his plow.

       Cold weather-dependent businessman Bob Sadler of Glen Ellyn can't wait to rejuvenate his snow removal business, which has ailed due to warm winter weather. Above, Sadler polishes his plow.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

Today's forecast for snow and blizzard-like driving conditions may be a horror to commuters, but it's great for snow-dependent businesses that have been suffering through one of the mildest winters on record.

From hardware stores stocked to the rafters with unsold winter goods to ski hills where fall-like conditions kept people away from man-made snow on the slopes, they have been waiting a long time for relief.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

Bob Sadler, owner of Glen Ellyn-based Avalanche Snowplowing, has been in the business for 38 years and said he doesn't remember "a worse winter" for his company. That may be about to change.

AccuWeather.com issued an alert Wednesday of possible near-blizzard conditions during this evening's rush hour due to the combination of plummeting temperatures, 3-6 inches of snow and howling winds.

Travel will become hazardous with visibility limited by blowing snow as winds gust over 30 miles per hour, said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. Delays at O'Hare International Airport are likely.

As of Wednesday, less than 2 inches of snow had been recorded at the National Weather Service's O'Hare weather station. Temperatures in December were about 8 degrees above normal and temperatures so far in January have been almost 10 degrees above normal.

"It's killing me," Sadler said. "I thank God for what little icing we've had, but it doesn't pay the bills."

He estimates he's lost out on between $20,000 and $30,000 of business so far this season, while laying out $12,000 on salt and paying maintenance fees to prepare his vehicles for plowing.

"You have to pray to God that we'll get some snow in April," he said.

While Sadler charges by the job, some competitors rely on seasonal contracts to help keep them afloat.

"We do get some income regardless" of the weather, said Tom Peters, owner of Schaumburg-based Northwest Snow and Ice Control Inc., which gets about 25 percent of his jobs through a seasonal contract.

He estimated that business is down about 80 percent compared to this time last year. "I'm not worried about being pushed out of the business ... but I'm sure some guys are."

Brian Lutz, president of Regional Truck Equipment in Addison, said about 90 percent of his business revolves around selling snow equipment at this time each year. Without the snow, there is a lack of demand for service parts and repairs.

Lutz said he is concerned about next year's sales because a lack of snow this year will mean people won't need to buy new equipment. "We really need the snow to make things wear out, I guess," he said with a laugh.

But like a glistening snowflake that won't melt, twinkles of optimism are still coming from the owners of many businesses that rely on cold weather, as they all know winter conditions will inevitably change.

Kevin Serio, recreation director at Four Seasons Alpine Snowsports in Lisle, said he had to close only for five days due to the weather as man-made snow is keeping the facility open. But it costs money to make snow, and when people don't have snow on their front lawns they tend to forget that there is snow at the facility.

The 300 or so employees at Four Seasons, which include many college and high school kids looking to make extra money while on break, are also feeling the effects of the weather.

"Unfortunately if there's not a whole lot of snow going on, there's not lot of work," Serio said. But he remains optimistic. "This year it's a slow start, but that doesn't mean its going to be a poor finish."

David Ziegler says sales at his family's nine Ace Hardware stores in the Fox Valley area are about even with last year's, the difference being in which items are selling.

"Our winter-related stuff is down 20 to 30 percent. But our other things in the store are up quite a bit because people are still doing things outside," he said.

He said the three most popular items each winter -- snowblowers, ice melting products and shovels -- are sitting fully stocked on the shelves, but there are no plans to mark them down so they will sell.

Ziegler said he feels that "people aren't going to buy a shovel for half off if they don't need it."

And they may need it beginning today. If they don't, "my grandpa always told me shovels never rot," he said. "If you don't sell them this year you'll sell them next year."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.