Businesses That Depend on Snow Worried About Another Warm Winter

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

MARION, Iowa - With a record-setting high temperature of 67 degrees in Cedar Rapids on Monday, if looks as if this winter is starting off as another trying time for businesses that depend on snow.

Lawn care and snow removal businesses had a rather tough time in 2012. A drought last summer and a fairly snowless winter before that wasn't good for business. Sales of snow blowers, shoves and even ice melting crystals are off to a predictably slow start this season.

But some companies have a solution for that problem. At Culver's Lawn Care and Landscaping in Marion, one plan is if you can't earn money plowing snow yet, then keep planting trees.

At Culver's at least 50 or 60 snow plow blades are lined up on the floor of a garage ready to go on the trucks. But with no snow in sight, those plows will sit where they are for now. Crews, however, won't just sit.

Todd Culver, the owner, said those workers who would normally plow out driveways and parking lots are still out doing the landscaping work that would have normally ended by now. And Culver said, from a company perspective, that's not necessarily a bad thing because landscaping work can bring in more money.

"It's a better business because you can do it five days a week, rather than once a week or every two weeks (like plowing). So it's better for us this way," Culver said

Culver said he's actually borrowing landscaping work that was scheduled for next spring after the thaw and doing it now simply to keep crews going.

Jake Huston, who was helping plant trees, is one of the Culver's employees who would normally hop and a truck and start plowing once snow accumulates. Huston, who was working in shirt sleeves, said he'd rather stay with landscaping rather than push snow.

"Yeah, it's a lot better than the freezing cold," Huston said.

Chris Pultz, who owns the much smaller Country Club Landscaping, has run out of his landscaping jobs for the year. So now he really can't do much except wait for winter.

He's only got one employee on the payroll now and had to lay off a few people early in the summer because the drought dried up the lawn care business for weeks.

Pultz said he tries to keep expenses low and look at other opportunities if it doesn't snow as much as normal.

"if it snows, it's there. If it doesn't, it's unfortunate. I try not to rely on the snow 100% for jobs—obviously," Pultz said.

As for snow blowers, one store owner said a few people bought early. But a lot of buyers will probably wait to see what mother nature will do.
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