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Early snows bring crowd to local retailers, car shops

Early snows bring crowd to local retailers, car shops

Early snows bring crowd to local retailers, car shops
An Alpin Haus employee demonstrates ski boot options to customers at the 2018 Northeast Ski & Craft Beer Showcase in Albany.
Photographer: Photo provided

CAPITAL REGION -- Pre-Thanksgiving snowstorms and early-season flurries have sent area consumers scrambling to hardware and winter gear stores, as well as auto repair garages.

An unexpected snowstorm on Nov. 16 buried some parts of the state under feet of snow. 

Saratoga County residents have cleared out the displays of snowblowers and shovels at some area hardware stores and prompted lines of motorists seeking snow tires for their cars.

November's 11 inches of snow topped last November by more than 8 inches, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Frugis.

“Last year, we didn’t even have a measurable amount of snow [at this point],” he said. “That’s definitely a big change from last year. It’s really almost double what we would typically see.”

In a more typical November, warmer temperatures would have turned the snow we've experienced to heavy rainfall. Colder-than-usual temperatures will most likely continue through December, Frugis said.

Shawn Haskell, an employee of The Tire Warehouse in Clifton Park, said that the business just caught up Monday with the influx of customers seeking to get snow tires on their vehicles after the Nov. 16 storm and the continued snowy weather the weekend after Thanksgiving.

“We got hit with a rush. The line was out the door. It was definitely very hectic,” Haskell said. For the most part, he said, customers drop their cars off to get snow tires put on, so the parking lot quickly filled with cars.

People usually get their cars in before the first big snowstorm of the season, but for many, that wasn’t an option this year, Haskell said.

“People are still coming,” Haskell said on Monday morning.

For winter sports and other retailers, the storm has brought a few days of boosted sales.

Lacey Jerome, store manager at Ace Hardware in Clifton Park, said the days surrounding November’s storm were “crazy,” with merchandise flying off the shelves. 

“Starting the night before [the Nov. 16 storm], we were just slammed. In two days, we sold all the snow blowers,” she said. The store also sold out of ice melt and shovels in just hours.

For Jerome, the rush was not a surprise, as she monitors weather reports pretty closely. She makes sure the shelves are stocked with winter items well ahead of a storm, even if the weather catches customers off guard

“Our business is weather-contingent," she said. "We like the weather. We like to be prepared."

The hardware store typically starts stocking its winter supplies in mid-November anyway, Jerome added. 

Her employees usually spend a day switching over merchandise. And when merchandise sells out during the run-up to a bad storm, the team spends the next day restocking shelves with snowblowers, salt and shovels.

“We're definitely always ready to accommodate whatever is thrown at us,” Jerome said.

Alpin Haus Ski Shop also saw customers rush in after the storm, as recreation centers to the north were covered in snow, said Jamie Georgelos, ski division manager for Alpin Haus.

“Our ski business is way up this year,” he said, noting that people came in to purchase downhill and cross-country skis, snowboards, snowshoes, hats, jackets, boots and gloves.

The early storm, while a nuisance to drivers, Georgelos said, has set up Alpin Haus, which has locations in Montgomery and Saratoga counties, for a strong season. 

Winter gear for Alpin Haus usually comes in throughout August and September, and Georgelos puts the merchandise on the shelves for December. 

This year though, he had to hire more employees to deal with the high number of sales that came from the storm.

“We have to keep our inventory at a certain level. We’ve been restocking like crazy,” he said.

Seeing snow falling makes winter real for people, especially skiers and snowboarders, Georgelos said. 

Georgelos said he had already done more skiing in the last few weeks of November than he did during the entire 2017 season, and he knows his customers are also looking forward to an extended season.

“Winter is here,” he said. 


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