There’s no business like snow business

Posted: February 29, 2012

By this time last winter, Philadelphia had already been bombarded by 44 inches of snow. Fast forward a year, and we've barely gotten four.

The lack of the white stuff no doubt makes some people happy - like at SEPTA and the city's Streets Department - but other area businesses are hurting from this unusually warm winter.

Businesses like I. Goldberg Army & Navy at 13th and Chestnut streets, which does the lion's share of its clothing sales during the winter months.

"It's probably colder at Flyers games in the Wells Fargo Center than outside at Lincoln Financial Field," said Nana Goldberg, the store's owner.

Because people aren't buttoning up this winter, Goldberg has had to slash prices much earlier than usual. But bargains won't convince a customer to buy a winter coat when February temperatures kept maxing out in the 50s.

"We're a very necessity-driven business," Goldberg said. "In this economy, if you don't need it, you don't buy it."

And no one's buying what Jason Rosner's selling. As the owner of Jay's Lawn Care in Cherry Hill, Rosner usually relies on the money he gets from his small snow removal service to tide him over until the spring and summer jobs start cropping up.

"I've lost $30, 40 thousand just from the lack of snow," he said. "Grass stops growing as soon as the first frost hits, so I can't even get some lawn work in."

Rosner anticipates a rough spring, too. Since he didn't get much work this winter, he'll have to underbid on landscaping jobs to increase his workload. But he said the "big guys" in the snowplowing game are really in trouble.

Guys like Dave Money from Upper Darby, whose last name seems like a cruel joke these days.

"I usually make about $100,000 a winter," he said. "This year, I've made $20,000."

Money heads Tow Squad, Inc., a plowing company with a fleet of 15 trucks. Unlike Rosner and Goldberg, he doesn't have many options for recouping his losses.

"We're just sitting and waiting for something to happen," he said. "I can't do anything without the snow."

But there are some businesses that can do, and are doing, a lot when the snow skips town.

Down at Penn's Landing, the Blue Cross RiverRink is set to break its record for number of ice-skaters in a single season.

"People are more inclined to come out when its warm," said Dave Moore, the rink's general manager. "Snow has a good potential to turn people away, especially when travel conditions are bad."

Moore said the increased revenue from this season helped restart the Good Skates program, which gives students from the Philadelphia School District a chance use the rink for free.

The season's high temperatures and clear skies are also bringing more visitors to Philly. Walter Marino, executive vice president of Philadelphia Sightseeing Tours & Transportation, has seen a 15 percent increase in winter trolley, bus and walking tours.

"It's been a treat to have such a mild season," he said. "This kind of weather gets people walking around and seeing our vehicles, which makes them more inclined to take a tour."

Contact Vinny Vella at 215-854-5926 or vellav@phillynews.com.

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