Business heats up when dealing with cold weather

djournal-weather-winterBy Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

When extremely cold weather hits, it’s not only the grocery stores and their bread-and-milk customers keeping busy. Other businesses also see a spike in activity as consumers struggle to keep themselves, their homes, their pets and their vehicles protected.

At Guntown LP Gas Co., manager Daniel Hines was working up a sweat even in the sub-freezing weather on Monday.

He was outside filling portable propane tanks that customers were bringing in steadily, while his two drivers were making their rounds in their 2,200-gallon tanker trucks. Inside the office, the phone was ringing constantly.

“We are covered up,” Hines said. “But that’s job security for us.”

Hines said Guntown LP is serving customers as fast at it can, but they can only do so much.

“We’re going to take care of the elderly first. … But if you’ve got 20 or 30 percent left, you’re OK until we can get to you in a day or so,” he said.

Meanwhile, at home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, customers are doing what they can to protect themselves and their homes from the bitter cold.

Supplies running low

Insulating covers for outside faucets were in high demand, with area stores out of stock. Lowe’s in Tupelo’s allotment of 700 covers were long gone.

Home Depot operations manager Scott Dees said employees and customers were coming up with ideas to insulate faucets, including cutting foam boards and duct-taping them over.

Customers looking for portable heaters were out of luck. Home Depot had no electric heaters left, but had a few patio heaters. At Lowe’s, only a handful of electric heaters were left.

Store representatives said they expect to see plenty of business when things thaw out – pipes will often freeze, then burst.

“We see it all the time after a big freeze,” said Lowe’s store manager Phillip Blanchard. “We’ll see a lot of PVC sales.”

Dees at Home Depot said he’s bringing in extra help at the store in anticipation of heavy traffic in the plumbing department.

Keeping pets warm

At PetSmart, pets could be made a little more comfy by a couple of nifty items – heated pet bowls and pet pads – the equivalent of electric blankets for dogs and cats.

Heather Henry, a pet care specialist at PetSmart, said the pads sell for $39.99.

As for the heated pet bowls, Henry said they help lessen the shock of ice-cold water for an animal.

Also selling well were pillows and dog houses, she said. If you already have a kennel or dog house, a good thing to help keep your dogs warm – if you don’t let them inside – is to have plenty of hay or some other kind of filler.

HVAC businesses say it’s probably too late to find out if your heating system is working like it should.

By mid-morning Monday, Comfort Engineering owner Bob Wiley had gotten a few calls – but not as many as he had expected.

“All in all it hasn’t been too busy yet as far as residential customers,” he said. “That’s not the case with commercial customers.”

Car care

Automotive mechanics’ shops were busy Monday, too, as many customers were looking to keep vehicles in top shape.

It’s never too late to get the battery, antifreeze and tires checked, said area mechanics.

“Your tire pressure goes down as the temperature goes down,” said Kevin Mitchell of Tom’s Automotive. Service. “That also means you’re getting less gas mileage.”

At the Goodyear Service Center, service manager Chris McKay said having a good battery is essential.

“It takes three times more cranking amps to start a car at 30 degrees than 75 degrees,” he said. “In warmer weather, you can get away with not having a good battery. When it’s this cold, you won’t.”

dennis.seid@journalinc.com