Business

'We do the snow dance'

The wind-blown snow ripping across the Mid-Columbia on Monday may have looked like an arctic wasteland, but for many area businesses it meant people were clambering for shovels, ice melter and protection from the cold.

“Today it’s been a lot of gloves, socks and boots,” said Kim Douglas, a sales associate at Basin Department Store in downtown Kennewick.

Business started picking up Sunday, when warm clothes and boots started flying off the shelves.

It’s made for a nice boost in a shaky economy, Douglas said.

Shovels and heaters were hot sellers at Ranch & Home in Kennewick, said assistant manager Mike Manning.

“Shovels are flying. Heaters have been going out the door today too. All kinds of heaters,” he said.

Charlie Grigg, vice president of Grigg’s Department Store in Pasco, said snow before Christmas generally is a plus for business.

“Jackets and all that kind of stuff sell better,” he said. “If it’s after Christmas, people think, ‘Well, maybe I can wait until next year.’ ”

Grigg’s had to restock on ice melter, shovels and sleds Monday and planned to get more insulation for pipes in Wednesday.

“Our two Ace (Hardware) stores have been selling ice melter and snow shovels all along, but then procrastinators come in and wipe you out,” Grigg said.

Snow boots also are going fast, and Grigg anticipated ordering more if the wintry weather keeps up.

Waiting until the snow arrives also seems a popular move when it comes to snow tires, said Greg Flink, owner of Lewis Street Tire in Pasco.

“Any time it snows you can count on being busy all day long,” he said.

A few people came in Friday and Saturday, but “everybody else, they wait until it actually happens.”

Post-holiday months tend to be slow in the tire business, so a rush on snow tires is welcome.

“We do the snow dance,” Flink said. “This helps carry us through January and February.”

Post office workers delivering mail in the blustery chill likely didn’t appreciate the snow, but attitudes were positive, said Richland postmaster Ellen Leliefeld.

“This hasn’t been too bad,” she said. “They’re bundled up for it and delivering. The problem we’re running into is drifts.”

Wind and blowing snow made it difficult to negotiate the mail vehicles and get them close to boxes, so maintenance workers were out all day rescuing stuck mail trucks, she said.

Delivery may be a little behind schedule, Leliefeld said, but it all will get done.

People mailing holiday packages also kept the post office busy all day, Leliefeld said.

“Weather didn’t stop anybody from coming to the post office,” she said. “Everybody’s actually in pretty good spirits.”

The day was expected to be the busiest one for mailing all year, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

Eight employees of All Seasons Landscape & Design in Pasco also were out in the cold Monday clearing parking lots of white stuff.

“Anywhere from car lots to retirement communities to dental and medical centers to residential,” said owner Zack Berg.

“All the landscape businesses welcome snow removal this time of year because things are slowing down,” he said, adding that his workers were glad to get the hours.

Concern about freezing pipes also kept phones at Hooper’s Inc. plumbing in Kennewick a little busier Monday, particularly with commercial customers, said co-owner Carolyn Hooper. Sometimes it takes a few years before newer commercial buildings have to address freezing pipes, she said.

Residential calls generally pick up a day or two after frigid temperatures set in, Hooper said, although homeowners seem to have gotten better about taking care of piping in the winter.

Simple steps such as keeping faucets dripping when plumbing is in outside walls can help prevent freezing pipes, Hooper said.

Or keeping the cupboards open so the heat can get to the pipes.

“Most people pay attention,” she said. “People do shut their vents, keep their water dripping and keep their heat at a good temperature.”

* Ingrid Stegemoeller: 582-1537; istegemoeller@tricityherald.com; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com

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