GREENFIELD — Those making plenty of green on all the white are grateful for the boost in business, but just like anyone else they’re hoping for some good news from Punxsutawney Phil this Groundhog Day.
Business is booming for private snow removers, plumbers and local stores that sell winter gear. While the cold temperatures and regular snowfall has meant a steady stream of cash, it’s also been hard work for local employees who are just as ready for spring as everybody else.
It’s not like Zach Muegge of Greenfield’s Muegge Heating Plumbing and Electrical would turn the work away, but judging from the sound of his voice Thursday, he won’t mind winding down a bit from a frenzied flurry of jobs brought on by this year’s hard winter.
“We’ve been extremely busy,” the business owner said Thursday. “Let’s put it this way, when it was like it was a couple days ago and like it was a couple weeks ago, we could have worked 24 hours a day and still have to tell people ‘no.’”
The sub-zero temperatures that made freezing seem like a balmy island holiday have wreaked havoc throughout the county, freezing and bursting water lines, taking furnaces down and rendering water heaters useless.
“And when there’s no heat, it’s always an emergency,” Muegge said.
Bill Whitley, office manager for Bedell plumbing, said his crews only began to slow down Wednesday.
Bedell has been churning a workforce of about a dozen repairmen and technicians for the last two weeks on 12- and 13-hour shifts, Whitley said.
The weather has been both a blessing and a burden.
“It’s been good for their pocketbooks, but it’s been a bit tough on the guys,” Whitley said. “At times we’ve had 60 or 70 people in line for just emergencies, never mind our normal business.”
The waiting list for Muegge’s trucks is no different.
“We are very backlogged,” he said.
Midstate Truck Equipment in Greenfield has been hopping the last two months, selling snow plows and salt spreaders while repairing vehicles for private contractors that have been out almost daily.
But does general manager Tim Brattain still get excited when he hears of a new round of snow in the forecast?
“We did for about a month, and now everybody is getting kind of over it,” Brattain said, laughing. “But this is what we do; we’ll just have to prepare ourselves for it.”
While new equipment is selling like hotcakes and repairs are up this year, Brattain said they’re also running into problems securing equipment from suppliers.
“These storms are all over the country; it’s not just here, so our suppliers are having a hard time meeting demands,” he said.
The adrenaline still pumps for Don Rush whenever he hears of a snowy forecast. Owner of Buck Creek Grounds Maintenance, Rush said he’s pleased he’s gotten a couple of new clients this season, and his business is booming with residential and commercial snow removal.
“I’m doing good, other than trying to keep stuff going. That’s kind of the battle,” Rush said. “When you have the cold weather, not everything wants to run.”
The early January storm that paralyzed the county in snow and sub-zero temperatures was good news for private snow removers who don’t normally get a call from the city of Greenfield for help. Bud Wesley, owner of J.L. Wesley Enterprises, said he was pleasantly surprised with the extra business from the city, which needed help clearing residential cul-de-sacs in the snow emergency.
And while Hershel Anderson of Anderson Construction has also been grateful for the extra business this season, he’s eager for spring.
“I’m not excited about all this snow staying here,” Anderson said. “When it gets dirty, it doesn’t look good.”
Business has been no less hectic for those trying to keep residents supplied with the goods they need to deal with winter’s maw.
“The people just came in droves,” said Karen Ratliff, manager at Orscheln Farm & Home in Greenfield. “Business has been very good, especially when they predicted bad weather.”
Over the last few weeks, Ratliff has been pushing salt and heaters, as well as equipment for livestock like bedding, straw, heated water bottles, tank heaters and lamps to keep chicks from the freeze.
When ice was in the forecast, generators went out the door with the wind, Ratliff said.
Residents might still find space heaters at the area’s smaller farm and home supply stores lying a bit off the beaten path, said Greenfield Home Depot manager Chris Alexander, but with his store being the big player in the area for one-stop shopping, heaters have been gone for some time, and they won’t be coming back any time soon.
“We’ve depleted our resources for heaters,” Alexander said. “We’ve been out solid for two, maybe three weeks.”
To his knowledge Home Depot and its vendors have no more heaters, which is a tough situation for business and residents that need them.
“We’ve been totally out, and I think we could have sold the same amount again that sold originally,” he said.
The picture is not much better for salt. It’s been moving out the door steadily as well with supplies dwindling. The salt situation might change as the company scours for more stock, but right now Alexander said he has what he has, and that’s a unique situation for Home Depot.
“We had a push on it three or four years ago, but then we had a warming trend and didn’t sell completely out,” he said.
And with this weekend’s predicted warmer temperatures, the fluctuating freezes and thaws have made life no less complicated.
During the bitter cold, the store runs out of snow blowers, shovels and salt; during the melts, sump pumps, dry vacs, mops and Clorox are in demand.
For one, Alexander said, he’s ready for a bit of a break and more than a little consistency.
“I’m ready to put out lawnmowers and grass seed,” he said.