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Published: Friday, 1/27/2006

Weather leaves area firms cold

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Mark Musgrave, left, manager of Red Sky Surf & Snow, helps Fernando Lopez consider a snowboard. Mark Musgrave, left, manager of Red Sky Surf & Snow, helps Fernando Lopez consider a snowboard.
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After a busy December, area sellers of snow-related items admit they welcomed a breather when the temperatures started to warm early this month.

But after catching up on snowplow maintenance, rearranging the snowmobile displays, and straightening the shelves filled with ski accessories, they insist they're getting antsy.

"I'm a summer person, but I definitely want some more snow," said Gabe Miller, sales manager at Honda East Yamaha Suzuki in Maumee, which sells Yamaha snowmobiles as well as accessories and clothing.

"This month was cold and kind of rainy, and that keeps everybody in their houses," he said.

A check with suppliers and retailers of snowplows and ice removal equipment, skis and snowboards, and snowmobiles found they finished 2005 with record or near record years because of activity that started with the Thanksgiving snowfall and continued through the cold, snowy days of December. But sales dropped off to near nothing with January's weather.

Sales have slowed to a crawl at ABCO Services in Toledo, a dealer in plows and ice-control equipment. Sales have slowed to a crawl at ABCO Services in Toledo, a dealer in plows and ice-control equipment.
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"If it's not snowing, you're not getting anyone in to buy anything," said Steve Zimmerman, vice president of ABCO Services Inc. in Toledo, which sells Fisher snowplows and ice-control equipment.

"The larger share of people are going to wait until the snow flies."

His company can keep busy with repairs on a wide variety of trucks, but he feels sorry for would-be entrepreneurs who came in to the shop in the fall to purchase snow-removal equipment.

"They were hoping it was going to be a snowy winter, so they've had the cash outlay but no income," he said.

Mark Musgrave, manager of Red Sky Surf & Snow shop in Toledo, said snowboarding enthusiasts can find a great time an hour north on U.S. 23 at Mount Holly, but they won't buy new equipment unless it's snowy and cold in Toledo.

"Up there, it's great, but the perception here is that it's not because we keep having these 45-degree days with rain," Mr. Musgrave said. "It's so weather driven right now. Even if you see a few flurries here in Toledo, we'll have a decent day in the shop."

Jim Wenberg, owner of Mountain Man Ski Shop in Toledo, said he has made a few sales to skiers heading north or west, but nothing like he would have in a typical January.

Jeff Gartz, president of Perfect Sweep and American Snow Removal Inc. in Toledo, said he has used the recent downtime to do routine maintenance on his snow equipment and replenish his salt bins, but now he's ready for calls from his more than 200 commercial accounts.

"We're doing the naked snow dance," he joked.

There may be some brighter days ahead for these retailers.

Laura Hannon, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pa., said the area could get flurries, and possibly accumulation, as early as Monday night.

It's too early to make predictions about inches of snowfall, she said, but there are some indications of changes overall in the weather pattern that will produce cold, and potentially snow, in February.

Which is good news for Joe T. Recker, president of Kalida Truck Equipment Inc., which has a location in Northwood.

"We track the weather pretty closely, and it sounds like we will get something within 7 to 10 days," he said. "We've got multiple product lines to keep us busy, but we definitely could use some snow."

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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