Local Businesses Left Cold by a Winter Deferred
By Menglin Huang
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Inside Sister’s Community Hardware on Fulton Street, bags of potting soil and fertilizer are piled near the counter among a heap of ice melter.
The ice melter bags are left over from New York’s warmest winter in 11 years. With recent mid-April temperatures hitting the mid-80s, there’s little chance Sister’s Community Hardware will be selling much ice melter anytime soon.
“It’s kind of crippling,” said John Sireno, the manager of the Fort Greene store. “Because you have to eat all that until the next season and it’s horrible, because you really need that money now.”
The mild winter has been credited with helping the local job market and mitigating the pain from higher fuel prices. But for some retail businesses across Brooklyn, the lack of cold and snow has put balance sheets into the red.
Brooklyn USA Ladies, a clothing store in Fulton Mall, did booming business during the winter of 2010-11, when 62 inches of snow fell on the city. But after this past winter, which saw 7 inches of snow, the store’s operators filled a large second-floor room with 15 racks of overstocked jackets and sweaters. A parka from The North Face is now labeled $199.99, almost half its original price — a far steeper discount than the usual 20-to-30-percent-off post-winter prices.
“The winter sales were dismal,” said Arthur Washington, the store’s manager.
Auto-related businesses also have struggled, with fewer repairs of radiators, which tend to break down during cold weather, said Johnny Huang, the owner of Unique Auto Repair in Fort Greene.
Meanwhile, car wash operations suffered through a winter that was kinder to vehicles than usual.
“Two years ago, we [usually] washed on Friday and Saturday… 300 or 400 cars,” said Nathaly Olivares, cashier for Atlantic Car Wash Inc. on Atlantic Avenue, “and now, 100” is a lot.
For Sireno, troubles were compounded by expectations based on last winter and the surprise storm in late October, when his shop sold out its backstock of salt and shovels. He spent thousands of dollars to restock, with visions of selling six tons of ice melter and 100 shovels like he did in 2010-2011.
But his “gamble,” as he put it, didn’t pay off. He only moved a half-ton of ice melter and two dozen shovels this past winter.
“It’s definitely a liability until we can turn it around next winter,” said Sireno. “But that’s a whole year away.”
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