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Published: Wednesday, 9/1/2004

Usual order overturned by summer of extremes

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

If Dick Boyd had his way, rain would fall only at night.

That's because he's the owner of Handel's Ice Cream in Sylvania Township, one of the scores of weather-dependent businesses that have had to contend with a crazy summer season that has brought torrential rains, cold fronts, and soaring heat - often within hours of each other.

"Rain is not my friend," said Mr. Boyd. "A lot of people stop here on their way back from swimming but when it's raining and the temperature is in the 70s, no one is going swimming."

Because the business opened just last summer, he's not sure how badly it was hurt this year by the less-than-desirable weather patterns. Business increased 30 percent last week when the temperatures turned warmer, he added.

The sluggish economy has led area golf course operators to offer steep discounts this summer, but the weather has given headaches to a number of area businesses, from ice cream shops to miniature-golf courses.

That same weather, however, has resulted in brisk business for exterminators and basement waterproofers.

"It's been the summer that never came," said Rob Morrin, vice president of sales for Northwood-based Litehouse Pools Spas N' More Inc.

The company's above-ground-pool business is off 10 percent this year and chemicals and accessories are marked 50 percent off to move inventory, he said.

"Usually at this time of year, our shelves are wiped out," he said.

The company does well when the weather is good from mid-May through the end of June, which was not the case this year, he explained.

"The weather's the worst I've seen it in the 17 years I've been here," he said.

Litehouse, though, is doing well overall because it also sells such items as hot tubs and billiards tables.

Terry Grady, owner and operator of Putt-Putt Golf Courses of Toledo, which has two locations in the city, said, "Obviously, either temperature extreme hurts us, but what hurts us even more than that is the forecast of negative weather.

"A lot of families plan on coming out after dinner and then they hear there's going to be rain, heavy at times, and they change their plans. And then, it doesn't rain."

Still, this year is not the worst of the 15 he's had his business. The summer of 2001 proved the most difficult because temperatures hovered around 90 degrees and above for weeks at a time, he said.

Kerry Schwindenhammer, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pa., said this summer's weather reputation in the Toledo area of being wet and cold, punctuated with hot days, is a mix of perception and reality.

Since June 1, the temperature in the area has averaged 69.3, or 1.7 degrees below normal, and rainfall has been 10.6 inches, one inch above normal. The summer is the wettest since 2000, he said.

The wetter-than-normal summer has meant increased business for some.

Tom Elder, owner of Seagate Roofing and Waterproofing in Toledo, said: "This has been a crazy year."

His roofing business has been sporadic because of concerns over the economy and inconsistent weather that makes it tough to determine when he can get crews up on rooftops, he said.

But the waterproofing side of the business has had "phones ring off the hook" every time the area has heavy rains, he said. "Basements don't leak unless it rains. We get a little backed up and have to take care of the worst emergencies first."

He added: "This year has definitely been a different kind of year."

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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