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Forget the recession — what about the snow?

Andy Taylor February 11, 2010 3

As if the down economy isn’t bad enough for area retailers, a rash of snowstorms that began in late December is delivering a second body blow to merchants.

“If you want a word-for-word quote from me, it would involve a lot of cuss words,” said Ray Tuck, owner of Ray Tuck’s Automotive Service at 5308 Lakeside Ave.

He estimated that his business is down about 40 percent this winter as a result of the snowy weather. “It’s about wiped me out.”

Tuck said that he has seen an increase in alignment work because of cars running over potholes but that otherwise business is off. Many of his customers don’t live nearby and aren’t going to drive in from places such as Goochland for repairs unless they are absolutely necessary, he said.

If misery loves company, Tuck has plenty of it.

“It actually has been horrible, especially on the weekends,” said Mike Pyle, co-owner of the Smokey Pig barbecue restaurant at 212 S. Washington Highway in Ashland.

The weather not only cuts into restaurant revenue but also that of servers and hourly workers, he said.

“I’m feeling better about this snow,” Pyle said as the latest storm was hitting the area Wednesday morning.

Restaurants like his count on the weekends for the bulk of their business. The big snows in late December and January shut the restaurant down for two weekends, Pyle said.

“I’ll take snow on a Wednesday anytime,” Pyle said.

Elizabeth Maeng, who owns and manages Mechanicsville Cleaners at 5722 Mechanicsville Turnpike, said her business is at about half of what it usually is.

“We’re just waiting for better weather,” she said. “It’s really bad but that’s all we can do.”

Perly’s Restaurant owner Gray Wyatt said he actually did something about the weather.

“We started a Facebook page and communicated with people who are our fans.” Wyatt said. The page alerts customers that the restaurant at 111 E. Grace St. in downtown Richmond is open for business, even if snow is falling.

He said that has helped a great deal. Business was horrible when the first storm hit but was not as bad with the past couple of storms.

“We’ve adapted,” Wyatt said. “It’s not business as normal, but it’s acceptable.”

Bowl America Short Pump, at 4400 Pouncey Tract Road, is finding mixed results from the weather.

Like with the Smokey Pig, the weekend snows severely cut into business, but weekdays have been a different story.

“When schools are canceled we actually have an increase,” said Manager Carl Gittings. “It doesn’t quite balance out though.”

Amid the doom and gloom, snow is providing a green lining for some businesses.

“It’s boosting our sales quite a bit,” said Bob Broomfield, owner of Play N Trade, a video game store in Carytown. “People will go out looking for entertainment.”

He also attributes his store’s success to the location. Play N Trade is in a shopping district that is surrounded by residential buildings that are within walking distance, Broomfield said.

Most of his customers are young people who can get around on their own, but he said he also sees a lot of kids who are brought in by their mothers.

“Carytown overall is doing well,” said Broomfield, president of the Carytown Merchants Association. He said suburban shopping centers are hampered somewhat because customers have to drive to them.

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3 Comments »

  1. Igor February 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Retail tax preparation is hurting quite a bit in the area. For retail tax preparation companies like HR Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty Tax; 60-70% of their ANNUAL revenue usually is earned in the last week of January and first 10 days of February. A lot of that revenue this year is being lost to Turbotax since it is hard to get to the retail tax stores in the snow and people have had the time to work on their tax returns with little else to do in the snow.

  2. Mark Smith February 11, 2010 at 11:25 am - Reply

    A 28 day month is tough on cash flow as it is — losing 4 or 5 days worth of revenue to weather is brutal. The comment I have most often heard is that it is a universal issue, but we can’t deposit “universal issues” in the bank.

    We are offsetting a nice gain in January and with a larger decrease in February — a bruising ride.

  3. Chris Terrell February 11, 2010 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I feel for these merchants, but at least their businesses are all indoors. The local public golf courses are doing no business whatsoever for large periods of time. It may be another week or more before the snow melts – assuming we don’t get more. The private clubs may be able to fall back on dues to an extent, but those missed rounds are hurting them as well. I expect to see another article soon about the body blow this weather has dealt to the teetering Federal Club.

    Money not being spent now may burst forth when the weather gets better (you can’t put off a leaking master cylinder forever), but for the golf industry this represents revenue lost and unrecoverable.

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