White stuff means green for businesses

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

While some people enjoy winter, for others, their livelihood depends on the cold temperatures and the white stuff the season brings.

“In the spring and fall, about 90 percent of our business is changeover for studs,” said Blade Bush, assistant manager of Johnson’s Tire Service in Soldotna.

Besides putting on people’s studded winter snow tires and taking them off again in spring, Bush said the store sells a lot of studded tires.

“About 80 percent of our tire sales are studded,” he said.

At this time of year, the store is “loaded to the max” with winter tire inventory, Bush said, and even though temperatures have been moderate, people are beginning to come in to have their studded tires put on vehicles.

“When it snows, we’ll be open from 7 a.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. — until customers stop coming in,” he said. Studded tires have been permitted north of Clam Gulch since Sept. 15.

Last winter, there was so little snow, Jeff Meeks, owner of Tuff Construction in Soldotna, said he had no calls for snow removal and ended up doing subcontracting work on the North Slope.

“In the winter, we do a little remodeling, but mostly we depend upon snow for our income,” Meeks said.

His snow removal company, which has two snowplows, a sander and a Bobcat for snow removal, does residential and commercial work, working on a contract basis with customers.

“They decide whether we come out after three inches or after six inches,” Meeks said.

He said his company clears snow from driveways and parking lots from Kasilof to Sterling and as far north as North Kenai.

River and Sea Marine stays busy year-round, said Mark Hordemann, parts manager, but without snowmachine sales, at least one-half of the store’s 12 employees would have to be let go in winter.

“Right now, we have a good stock of Ski-doo Revs, which has been our most popular model,” he said, describing it as a rider-forward snowmachine that offers “better ergonomics” for the rider.

“You don’t have to stand up to make the machine do what you want it to do,” Hordemann said.

Another popular model available at River and Sea is the Yamaha Phaser, which Hordemann said is a lightweight, four-stroke twin.

“It has a radical design ... no cowling on the front,” he said.

In addition to the machines themselves, the store also sells a full line of outerwear for snowmachiners.

“This year the big name in outerwear is Klim — pronounced like climb,” Hordemann said. “We have a good selection of their product from bibs to parkas, pullovers and quilted parkas,” he said.

River and Sea also sells a truly waterproof snowmachine boot, according to Hordemann, “and I carry all brands of handlebar risers,” an accessory people can use to raise their handlebars as much as seven inches.

Without winter weather, the snowmachine segment of the store’s business would be all but nonexistent.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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