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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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Spring heats up lagging business (05/08/2013)
By Chris Rogers

Photo by Chris Rogers
     Seated from left to right, Angela Ward, Katlin Kolbinger, and Lauren Stagakis rode their bikes in the sun to catch a cool treat at Lakeview Drive Inn. Like other seasonal businesses, the restaurant suffered a sluggish spring due to cold weather and late snows, but it and Lake Park were packed early this week.
Business at local, seasonal businesses is picking up, finally. From farmers to ice cream vendors, local businesses that depend on warm weather have suffered this spring.

"We're not getting any sales that we might have usually. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars behind," said Maria Kreidermacher of the Altura-based greenhouse and farm, Pork and Plants.

"We've definitely been slower than last year," said Brad Walker of Adventure Cycle and Ski. "The thing with bikes is that most people don't think about it till the sun comes out," he continued.

In addition to hurting sales, the cold weather has added costs for Pork and Plants. Kreidermacher estimates she has spent an extra $20,000 on fuel to heat her greenhouses this year. She keeps her greenhouses a little cooler and waters less to limit plant growth in an effort to preserve plant starts that are getting too big, but there is only so much she can do to adapt her operation.

Becky Benson of Winona Landscape and Nursery said that the cold weather will "compress" the landscaping season. With fewer warm days, they will have to work faster to finish the same number of jobs.

"Every nice day we have, the phones ring off the hook and when we had snow it was dead quiet," Benson explained. Winona Landscape and Nursery is faced with the challenges of keeping workers occupied during those quiet spells and having enough help during busy periods, Benson added.

Many businesses have put off seasonal hiring this spring. Kreidermacher said she started employees three weeks later this year. Benson said she pushed back some hiring too.

"[Our seasonal employees] know that we don't make the weather," Benson said. "But at the same time, this is when they would normally be making a paycheck."

Hiring changes may be bad for some workers and good for others. Kriedermacher said she plans to hire more employees now that things are warming up just to keep up with the rush she expects as sun-starved gardeners emerge from their dens.

"We figure the next three weeks are just going to be crazy," she said. "I've got extra employees planned just to make sure that we can keep product moving out to our retail, and we're going to have extended hours."

Kreidermacher, Benson, and Walker are hoping that long-awaited spring rush will help them catch up to their normal sales, and that with a good summer season they can make up for lost time and profits. "We hope we have a nice long fall," said Benson.

"As long as the weather stabilizes we normally even out by midsummer," Walker said of his bike shop. 


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