No Snow Hurting Some Local Businesses

December Brought Big Storms In 2009, 2010

MADISON, Wis. - In 2009 and 2010, the Madison area has been snow-covered by mid-December, with winter storms socking the city each of the past two years.

Some might not mind not having to drive through snow and ice to finish their holiday shopping, but some businesses are not too happy about the late arrival of the white stuff. But they comfort themselves in the knowledge that the snow -- as it always does in Wisconsin -- will eventually come.

At Dorn True Value Hardware, Kim Todd is sizing up a shiny new -- and expensive -- snowblower.

"My dependable Ahrens just conked out on me," Todd said, adding about the price of his desired model. "Well, the wife might say 'No,' but I'd say 'Yes' to that."

Todd is looking to buy before the first big snow of the year.

"No snow so far, knock on wood and what not, but I've got to be prepared for the season," Todd said.

When Mother Nature brought snow to the area in mid-December 2009 and 2010, she also brought green to Larry Roth's business. How much green?

"Well, we would've restocked by now, probably twice," said Roth, of the snowblowers at his Dorn True Value Hardware store.

This year, winter-weather sales are off by two-thirds, as snowblowers, shovels, and bags of ice melt sit ignored and unwanted.

"Well, the motivation's not there for snowblowers yet," admits Roth. "We need something on the ground before people get upset about it."

It's the same story at nearby Barnes Inc., where more than 100 plows and blowers have nowhere to go. The situation is dire enough to have CEO Mark Barnes considering a snow dance.

"I've got a bad knee," said Barnes. "But if I didn't have a bad knee, I'd be dancing every day, I'd tell you that right now."

Barnes isn't panicking. Snow, the arrival of which can account for half of his yearly business, will come, he said.

But because it's not here yet, 70 of his employees don't have work.

"The ideal thing is for it to snow in December, so these people have money to buy presents for their kids and whoever they want to before the holidays," said Barnes.

As for Todd, if he doesn't get that new snowblower in time for the first storm, he'll know what to do.

"I guess I grew up in Wisconsin, so I'm used to shoveling," Todd said.

At both Dorn True Value and Barnes Inc., there is a silver lining to the lack of snow. At Dorn True Value, sales of holiday decorations are up because they say it's easier to put them up without the snow. At Barnes, they say they've had more landscaping business and tree removal lately.

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