Recent snowstorms in the Capital Region may have inconvenienced commuters and excited kids heading out to use their sleds, but some local businesses rely on those storms for much-needed winter income.
Dave Higgins owns a Mechanicville remodeling business but also has a side business plowing driveways, parking lots and sidewalks after big winter storms. The army of private contractors like Higgins turns out after every snowstorm to keep driveways clear and parking lots accessible.
“We work through the winter, but I started doing it because a lot of times if you get a snowstorm, you can’t work outside,” he said.
Higgins finished up eight hours of plowing Monday afternoon in his 2003 Ford F-250. He plows about 50 different locations with help from his son and nephew, but many of those are friends and family whose driveways he clears for free.
He has a handful of local business clients, though, including Kearney’s Service Center on Central Avenue.
On Monday, he was clearing the wet, heavy snow from the car shop’s parking lot.
“When it’s like this, sometimes I’ve had it happen to me when I’ve sunk in the driveway and got stuck,” Higgins said. “The easiest is the real light, dusty [snow]. It could be a foot, as long as it’s not wet like this.”
His truck has a C-plow, which can be controlled by a switch from inside the cab to rotate so the truck can drag the snow while backing up. He said the plow cost approximately $4,500.
Whenever the region has at least 3 inches of snow, Higgins makes the rounds of his customers’ driveways and parking lots and bills them at the end of the month.
He plows both Getty gas stations in the city and said that he charges Getty about $50 for the 15 minutes worth of work on each. Clearing a larger parking lot, like Kearney’s, could cost up to $100.
After plowing the parking lot, Higgins went to Joe Kearney’s driveway and plowed it as well.
“If you call him he’s there. There’s nothing bad about Dave, his whole family, they’re saints,” Kearney said. “We work on his vehicles and he helps me out with plowing, it’s a good relationship.”
Higgins is the nephew of former Mechanicville Mayor Thomas Higgins.
Kearney usually plows his own parking lot and driveway, but he said he’s recovering from a recent surgery so he asked Higgins, who has been plowing snow for almost 20 years, to do it.
When Higgins was out Monday morning, he passed someone who had hit a pole on the side of the road. His plow doubles as a tow truck, so he helped the motorist get unstuck for free.
“He just said thanks,” Higgins said. “I wouldn’t have taken anything anyway. Some day that might be me.”
Higgins has gone out plowing four times this year, but Dawn Hanson of Amsterdam said her company has plowed about 10 times already.
Hanson is the co-owner of her husband’s paving business. Like Higgins, Ken Hanson Paving charges plowing customers on a case-by-case basis. Dawn Hanson said rising fuel costs have led the company to raise its rates.
“It depends on how long it takes them to go in and plow,” she said. “With diesel fuel going up to almost $3.50 a gallon and insurance going up, it all plays a part.”
Hanson said that the family relies on snow plowing as their sole income some winters.
“Winter can be very slow and very poor, or it can be very good. You never know,” she said. “Same way with the summer; if it rains a lot you can’t do a lot of outside work, where here if it snows we’re plowing. Your bills go on year-round.”
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