Harsh winter easy on some businesses

Lawrence resident Randy McMechan picks up a bucket of Ice Melt on Monday at Cottin’s Hardware and Rental, 1832 Mass., in expectation of severe winter weather. The National Weather Service in Topeka has issued a winter storm warning for Douglas County until 6 a.m. Wednesday.

A Lawrence bicycle shop owner called it “the perfect storm for business.”

The same long winter that gave some residents the bone-chilling blues created a financial boom for several local businesses.

One of those was Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop.

“We had a lot of people buying base layers because their offices were too cold to even sit at their desks and do work,” said Dan Hughes, owner of the store at 802 Mass. He said socks, gloves and long underwear flew off the shelves this season.

Cottin’s Hardware, 1832 Mass., sold twice as much ice melt as usual, said owner Linda Cottin. Along with a significant increase in sales for hand warmers and heaters, the store sold as many shovels and sleds as it could stock.

“Typically with Kansas you get a couple of days’ window to sell product because the sun comes out and melts (the snow) and it’s over. This winter was unique in that we had an ongoing storm system that lasted for months. It wasn’t just a one-time deal. People had to come back and get more,” Cottin said.

The city of Lawrence also shelled out more than usual to its two main suppliers, Central Salt and Penny’s Sand, to deal with icy roads.

“With the winter being worse, it meant our business was up,” said Brian Rockers of Central Salt.

Lawrence typically receives about 20 inches of snowfall per year. This season brought more than 35 inches. Labor, equipment and supplies for road management — including roughly 3,500 tons of sand and 4,600 tons of salt — cost the city $651,825 compared with $300,062 last year.

“This was absolutely a bad winter for road management,” said Mark Thiel, assistant public works director of infrastructure and maintenance.

For Bulldog Towing, the snowy roadways meant big business.

“I’ve been in business for seven years, and this was the busiest winter we’ve had,” said owner Jeff Jacobs.

Most of his business came from winching vehicles out of deep snowdrifts in residential neighborhoods, he said.

Laird Noller Automotive also experienced a winter boon.

“It’s a part of winter, when there’s snow and ice, it brings us more body shop business,” said Gary Benett, Laird Noller’s president. “The more snow and ice there is, the busier our collision repair shop gets.”