FEATURE: Some see silver lining under the snow

Posted on Mar 1, 2014 :: Features
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Companies such as Ariens, which makes snow removal and lawn care equipment, are benefitting from this season’s frigid and snowy winter weather. Photo courtesy of Ariens.

Companies such as Ariens, which makes snow removal and lawn care equipment, are benefitting from this season’s frigid and snowy winter weather. Photo courtesy of Ariens.

It’s been one heck of a winter, with record-breaking cold temperatures and plenty of snow. While most of us have been complaining, the cold and snow is actually good news for some businesses. Here’s a look at several places that haven’t minded the snow and cold…too much.


Travel industry

Cold, wintry weather is definitely keeping things busy at Fox World Travel, which has 11 locations in Wisconsin. “We haven’t had a winter like this in 20 years,” says Brian Hurley, vice president of vacation travel for the Oshkosh-based company. “January is usually our busiest month and this has been no exception.”

The most popular destinations are Mexico and Florida, he adds. “People are looking to book for spring break or Easter, and we’ve even had some people walk in and say ‘I just want to get out of here’ and want to get away as quickly as possible,” Hurley says.

The wintry weather, which has bedeviled much of the east and central U.S., is a double-edged sword since Fox World Travel is also helping its corporate customers who may be delayed in such spots as Chicago and New York, he adds.

“We provide service throughout the entire trip so if someone books with us and gets stuck in Chicago, which has had a terrible winter, it’s up to us to help them get where they need to go,” Hurley says. “Our resources have been stretched thin this winter as we help customers book new trips and help our customers who are already on trips.”


Theaters and indoor recreation thriving

Marcus Theaters operates several movie theaters in the region as well as Funset Boulevard, an indoor entertainment complex in Appleton. The bleak winter has proved to be a boon for business, says spokesman Bob Menefee.

Not only are people coming to the movies to check out Oscar favorites, families have embraced “Frozen,” the Disney movie that came out before Thanksgiving but was able to finish No. 1 in the box office in early January as most of us were freezing.

“Disney hit a home run with that movie,” Menefee says.

Marcus’ $5 deal on Tuesdays – all tickets are $5 and popcorn is free – has been a huge success this winter for the Milwaukee-based company, which operates more than 700 screens in seven states.

At Funset Boulevard, people are looking to do something fun and ditch their cabin fever. “This is a prime time for Funset Boulevard. Parents want their kids to be active, but just want to get out of the house,” Menefee says. “You can only stay in the house so long.”


Snow equipment makers

The maker of snow blowers and lawn equipment is thrilled with this winter’s snowy and cold weather, with sales up more than 40 percent over last winter, says Ariens spokeswoman Ann Stilp.

“We love to see all the snow and cold,” she says, adding that this year’s freezing temps likely drove sales since people wanted to spend less time outside cleaning their driveways and sidewalks. “We actually saw sales increase when it was so cold before all the big snow hit.”

With lots of snow this winter in the Chicago area and out East, plenty of people are opting to put down their shovels and invest in snow throwers, Stilp says.

But the company is looking forward a bit to spring: some manufacturing is now being converted from winter to summer equipment. “We have the capability to do both at the same time, but we’ll soon be moving to just focusing on the lawn equipment,” she says.


Heating companies

Extra cold temperatures are not only making your furnace work overtime, it’s also keeping Christensen Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. employees busy.

“We had some days when our first call was at 6:30 a.m. and we were going to 1 or 2 in the morning,” says owner Mike Christensen. “With the extreme temperatures, furnaces have definitely been working hard. We easily were doing 40 to 50 service calls a day.”

The cold weather has homeowners more wary than ever of any noises coming from their furnaces since no one wants to be without heat. “We definitely gained some new customers because we offer 24-hour service,” Christensen says. “You don’t want to wait if your furnace isn’t working right.”

Keeping air filters clean and putting new batteries in your thermostat are two ways to keep your furnace running properly, he says. In addition, an annual tune-up – before winter hits – is also a good idea to make sure the furnace is running at its best, Christensen says.


Children’s museum

Bobbie Schmidt, executive director of The Building for Kids in downtown Appleton, says the children’s museum has definitely seen an uptick in traffic this winter.

When schools have closed because of the cold weather, the museum has become a popular destination.

“We’ll see one parent come in with a bunch of kids. We provide a break in the scenery of being stuck at home,” Schmidt says. “Children get to actively play and burn off some energy.”

The museum does close if the Appleton Area School District closes because of hazardous driving conditions caused by too much ice or snow.