When it snows, most people see white, but some businesses see green. Snow-related business can be precarious in South Jersey, as some years bring cold snaps and massive snowfalls, while others are more like a lamb than a lion in winter. Joe Almo, the owner of Alpine Ski & Snowboard and Almo Pools in Egg Harbor Township, knows the role weather can play in both of his businesses.
A cold, snowy day can triple his business. Even before Tuesday’s storm, he already had sold more snowboards than all of last year.
“People are thinking I need warm clothing or I want to go skiing. If it’s warm, they’re not thinking about winter sports,” he said.
This year, businesses that cater to cold — from heavy-clothing sales to snow removal — saw an early benefit to the cold season, with snowstorms in December and early January, as well as several days of single-digit, “polar vortex” temperatures.
For Almo, ski slopes opening early in Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire are also helpful.
“We’re thinking we need a good winter. We need snow. We want snow,” he said.
For businesses of all varieties, snow and extreme cold can be costly — and not just for heating bills.
Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company, estimated the early January extreme cold cost the economy a combined $5 billion, including burst pipe damage, lost productivity from workers who stayed home and other measures, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, when businesses are open, other area businesses help them stay that way.
Ryan Douglass, owner of Douglass Landscaping Services in Lower Township, does snow removal for commercial clients, doctors’ offices and apartment buildings.
Much of his business is in the spring, summer and fall, but working during a snowstorm can help supplement the slowest months of the year.
“Honestly, it’s really good for us,” he said. “When we have the 8-inch storm like we had couple weeks ago, usually that entails two to three days straight of work, with pretty much very little sleep.”
“Snow is nothing guaranteed here. Usually when we get those kinds of storms and have a good year, it makes the winters a lot easier to get through financially,” he said. “The summer is the consistent money. The snow is the icing on the cake.”
Offering snow removal has another benefit to his landscaping business. It helps get larger commercial contracts with businesses that want landscaping and snow removal services done through one company, he said.
Kyle Carter, owner of DKC Contractors in Lower Township, got into the snow business in 2009.
Unlike some firms that picked up snow removal to supplement their other existing business, Carter started in snow removal and expanded into another area.
In a way, snowstorms helped grow his business into areas such as excavation and landscaping.
“When we get a lot of snow, it gives me the opportunity to make some extra money, to influence my business decisions to expand into new fields or buy new equipment,” he said.
The snow business helped him purchase a truck for Dumpster rentals and an excavator for lot clearing, he said.
Carter says his business clears snow for about 45 commercial accounts from Cape May to Atlantic City. The work helps them stay open.
“They can’t do business if they have lots full of snow,” he said. “They’re relying on you to be there.”
Almo said the year’s early winter has been a benefit to his ski business, which had dropped the past two years from a combination of the economy and the weather.
This year has been different.
“Now they’re coming back up this year and you have the whole month of February yet,” he said. “I’m thinking we’re going to get a lot of snow. There’s a lot of winter left.”
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