Snowfall revives seasonal business

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Staff photo by Will O'Brien While many Beloiters endured the headaches of shoveling and plowing, others decided to enjoy some creative fun during Tuesday's heavy snowfall. Pictured here, Ralph Tlachac and his four-year-old grandson Zeke Milner created a SpongeBob sculpture outside Tlachac's residence in the 900 block of Bushnell Street.

The cold and heavy snow has been warmly embraced by local businesses.

After a slow December, Ace Hardware Manager Debbie Nelson said business was booming Tuesday as customers purchased about two shovels per hour.

She said the winter selling season started out strong in November with many snow blower purchases, after customers heard the Farmer's Almanac predicted a cold and snowy winter. However, when the flakes refrained from falling in December, snow-related business really took a nosedive. Some employees even had to go home early when business got slow.

But last week when the first snow storm of the season hit, business picked up again. One of her hot sellers has been the shovel called "the snowplow." The shovel is so strong it can be stood upon, and includes a piece which can be used as an ice chopper. She said the area city, school and fire departments have acquired them already, and new customers are clamoring to buy them.

"It's a pusher and a chopper," Nelson said. "They are kind of expensive but they are going to last you forever."

Nelson is confident the snow will keep falling.

"Once it starts, it's not going to stop," she said.

Although she's not a big fan of snow, she said it helps the hardware store and her friends who have plowing businesses busy.

Brian Snyder, was outside Tuesday plowing the parking lot at Ace Hardware before heading over to Taco Bell on Riverside Drive. Snyder admitted he enjoyed the December reprieve from plowing, but was ecstatic the snow was finally coming down.

"I'm ready to go. That first snow we had last week was a nice wake up call, and it looks like Mother Nature is here for the long haul," he said. "I do it because I enjoy it. I like getting out and playing in the snow. It's like a little kid. I make big piles of snow and make people happy. Who could ask for more?"

Snyder, who also works as a firefighter in Town of Beloit, said his part-time gig of snow plowing has been a great business for the past 12-14 years.

He has about 10 commercial accounts and is happy to service them with his new 2011 Ford F250 diesel truck with a blizzard plow, and his pooch named Macy, a golden lab pup who rides along.

Snyder said the business can be challenging with little snow, especially for plowers just starting out or ones without other jobs to supplement their income.

"It's an expensive endeavor with insurance, fuel costs and equipment maintenance. You can make money at it, but there's a lot of liability," he said.

Doug Valentine, owner of Doug's Landscaping, has been plowing for about four years in the South Beloit, Rockton, Roscoe, Rockford, Cherry Valley and Machesney Park areas serving 90 commercial and residential accounts.

He was a little nervous about the weather in December, although he said his business also focuses on construction and landscaping. The warmer weather allowed him to work on some roofing projects. However, he did have to lay off two part-time employees because of a lack of snow, although he hopes he will be able to bring them back in the spring.

Although more snow will likely fall, he said it's going to be a slower season overall. He said it's important to diversify his business because the weather can be unpredictable.

"Some years you have nothing, but the last three to four years have been fabulous. Five to seven years before that there was very little snow," he said.

Logan Ingerman, an eighth grader at South Beloit Junior High School, was relieved the snow is finally here so he can launch his snow shoveling business to help pay for his cell phone bill. He said he has plans to shovel before and after school for reasonable prices. He said he will take calls and give estimates based on driveway size.

He can drive a snowblower, although he's not scared to clear a driveway in about 15-20 minutes with a shovel.

According to snow tracker John Presley, deputy chief with Harlem-Roscoe Fire Department, there will be 21 more snows after Tuesday's latest blanket of white.

Presley learned his snow prediction method from his father Oscar Presley, the retired Harlem-Roscoe fire chief. Oscar Presley predicted the number of seasonal snowfalls for the Stateline Area for more than 25 years, and credits a Native American man in Brodhead for giving him the idea.

His equation for forecasting the precipitation is based upon the phases of the moon and the date of the first measurable accumulation of snow. The snow must be deep enough to track a small animal through the snow on soft turf.

Last year Presley predicted around 30 snows, and was off by two or three. Overall, he said there will be less snow than previous years this season. But with only three months left of winter, he said it could be snowing every three to four days. Presley noted some of his friends who have their own snowfall tracking systems have predicted closer to 30 more snowfalls this year.

Presley wasn't too worried about the snow on Tuesday, as he was in Florida spending time with his parents.

"It's 74 degree weather, the sun is shining, and I'm loving it to death," he said.

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