This time last year, many were still digging themselves out after a record snowstorm. Snow-related businesses could barely keep up with demand. This year, Northern Arizona businesses are reflecting a mixed bag in regards to weather.
“Last year at this time, we had a ton of snow and our numbers were astronomical,” said Steve Chatinski, owner of Peace Surplus. “People were coming in to buy snow boots, gloves and hats and to rent skis. This year, I’m standing outside in my shirtsleeves. Last year, I had to walk to work because either the streets weren’t plowed or my SUV was plowed in.
“In 2010, we nailed it; it was my best January since we opened in Flagstaff in 1976. Ski tuning over Martin Luther King weekend was okay, but last year, it was spectacular. This year was just ‘good.’
Chatinski sees that his sales correlate to the amount of snow falling. “Snow really does affect this town,” he said.
“Last year, the snow kept us in business. It was a huge deal with construction being down. If we didn’t have the snow business, we wouldn’t have had any business,” said Fran Algya of Flagstaff Equipment Company. “This year, we’re selling a little more construction equipment. Any improvement is a welcome improvement.
We’ve sold a lot of snowplows this year. We’ve done just as many or more snowplow installs than last year. I hate to say it, but snow is recession-proof. You have to get rid of the snow. The snow’s gotta go!” she laughed, quoting a favorite bumper sticker.
“We haven’t done any roof shoveling yet this year. The snow in January set us to work for about a week to 10 days. We put a lot of guys to work doing shoveling, plowing, cindering and ice control. We have 35 plow trucks, two Honda consumer-use snow blowers and Meyer cindering equipment,” said Algya.
Jan Shirley, executive assistant of the Williams Chamber of Commerce, reported that after last month’s snow, the local ski area opened. “Within about fours hours, we had 24 inches,” she said. After the snow, people came to town to ski and tube at Elk Ridge Ski and Outdoor Recreation Area.
“The Polar Express brings in 90-94,000 people per season. You see the RV parks and hotels fill up,” Shirley said. “After that, January, February and March are typically slower until spring break. But you know visitors are in town when you see all the snowmen built along the roadways.”
At Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff, Dave Smith reports that January numbers were above January of 2010. “Since we opened on Dec. 25 this year, and Dec. 17 last year, it is difficult to compare overall.”
After the snowstorms, they had to turn people away on Saturday, Jan. 8 around 10:30 a.m., but reopened later that day. “It happens less than a handful of times throughout the year. We always encourage locals to get to the ski resort early,” said Smith, who reports that food and beverage sales at both lodges are up by about 10 percent over last year.
“We were sold out for four or five days over New Year’s because of the snow,” said Pragna Prema, owner of Super 8 Motel near the corner of Milton and Old Route 66. “The snow helps us a lot, especially on holidays.”
“If hotels are busy, then the restaurants are busy,” said the innkeeper.
On the other side of the coin, Sam Shulman, owner of Majestic Mobil, says snow doesn’t affect his business. “Regardless of whether it snows or doesn’t, our numbers are up. We’re doing good.”
Jerry Foreman, a buyer at Babbitt’s Backcountry Outfitters in downtown Flagstaff, agrees. “Our business is more temperature-based than snow-based. We don’t sell skis or snowboards, so we’re not snow dependent. The thing is, it’s hard to sell down jackets when it is 50 degrees out, like it is right now.
“We are focused more on clothing and buy the same amount of clothing year after year. We find that it is important to diversify, in case certain sales are slow. Most of our snow in Flagstaff comes in February and March, so we could still get hit with lots of snow and sell out of down jackets by March,” Foreman said hopefully. FBN
Babbitt’s Backcountry Outfitters
12 East Aspen Avenue, Flagstaff
Flagstaff Equipment Company
500 North Grant, Flagstaff
14 W Route 66, Flagstaff
Williams Chamber of Commerce
200 W. Railroad Ave, Williams