Some businesses see dollar signs in snow
CAPITAL REGION Butch Casso has had a lot of car suspensions, fenders and bumpers to repair this winter.
“It’s been busy,” he said. “You know, people forgetting how to drive. But business has been about double what it usually is this time of year.”
The owner of Butch’s Auto Repair in Amsterdam is among a unique class of business owners who don’t groan when the Weather Channel forecasts a big winter storm. Auto body repair shops, ski centers, winter-gear outfitters and certain other businesses see steady business during winters like this one.
As a storm dumped snow on the Capital Region on Thursday, Todd Plemenik predicted his Scotia shop, Frank & Sons Body Works, would see a spike in business today and Saturday from cars hitting other vehicles or going off the road.
“It’s usually the tow companies who are busy on days like this,” he said Thursday. “There’s a bit of a lag from the time of the accident, because the car will maybe sit at the tow company for a day and then the driver will call us to have us repair the damage.”
But Frank & Sons gets more than just fender-bender work during snowstorms. It also puts snow tires on vehicles, and if it happens to be cold that day, it will see a spike in car battery installations.
Maple Ski Ridge operators certainly don’t lament a good snowstorm. The Rotterdam ski venue has seen a noticeable uptick in the number of kids using its after-school programs. Weekend lesson programs are also doing well this season, said marketing manager Kate Michener.
“We are primarily a learn-to-ski facility,” she said. “We’re not a destination resort. We’re not a Gore or a Whiteface. Still, when this extra snow falls from the heavens, it reminds people, ‘Hey, it’s winter, let’s go out and have some fun.’ So it’s helpful for us.”
Michener said the facility doesn’t count how many winter visitors it has until the end of the season, but this year’s seemingly abundant snowfall has been helpful. She also suspects the increase in business this winter has a lot to do with the ongoing Olympic Games in Sochi.
“I’ll have a grandfather call and say, ‘My grandson wants to start taking lessons,’ and I’ll ask him, ‘Oh, how come he hasn’t skied or snowboarded before?’ And then he starts talking about the Olympics.”
Winter weather can make or break some businesses. Gear is flying off the shelves at Alpine Sport Shop in Saratoga Springs this year, a welcome sight after a so-so winter last year and a mild one before that, said owner Jack Hay.
“Our business is very dependent on the weather,” he said. “There are a lot of skiers who will ski no matter what, but the weather can be the critical tipping factor, because when it snows, people are more inclined to think about skiing. They have snow in their own yard.”
A snowy winter means more business from cross-country skiers and snowshoers, he said. Alpine also sells winter gear like jackets, hats, gloves and boots.
“I would say we’re probably up 20 percent this year,” said Hay. “We’re closed in the summer, so if it doesn’t snow one winter, we don’t do very well that year.”
Not everyone has benefited from the increased snow this winter.
“The one thing I can tell you is if we had gotten all these storms in December or November, you couldn’t get near this place,” said Bart Caruso, manager of Tire Warehouse of Union Street in Schenectady. “But now that it’s this time of year — you know, the middle of February, going into March — it keeps people away because they’re thinking they can make it until spring in five weeks.”
Frequent snowstorms, no matter where they fall in the season, can mean slower business for the restaurant industry, said New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut — but usually only on days when residents are urged to stay off the roads, she added.
“On a night like tonight, people probably won’t go out to restaurants,” she said Thursday, “but any other day, I mean, it’s winter in upstate New York.”