February 27, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Poll: Brutal winter hurting Metro Detroit businesses

A bicyclist rides down Harper during freezing weather in Harper Woods last month. The cold is hurting customer traffic at many stores. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

A study released Thursday confirms what most Metro Detroit entrepreneurs have known for weeks: this winter has been brutal for business.

Small Business Majority, a California-based small business advocacy group, polled more than 500 Michigan small business owners and found that four in 10 have closed at some point because of the weather and one in five has laid off workers.

“Today’s poll shows extreme weather creates real problems for small business owners across Michigan,” said Rhett Buttle, vice president of external affairs of SBM. “Too many have been significantly impacted by extreme weather. We should all sit up and take notice.”

The poll, conducted in early February, found 44 percent of small businesses have had to close for up to a week, with some closing for as long as 14-30 days. More than four in 10 said they’ve racked up damages between $5,000 and $25,000.

Jonathan Tobias, owner of Wixom-based Michigan Green Cabs, is among those who’s suffered financially.

Tobias said he’s lost $6,000 in revenue this year, and has had to pay an additional $8,500 on top of usual winter repair costs for his fleet of hybrid cabs. He’s had to close his business multiple days and has lost a few vehicles to monster potholes.

“I’ve lived in Michigan all of my life and I’m used to snowstorms but the past few years have been different,” he said. “I can’t spare much more of what I’ve already paid and remain profitable.”

The cold and snow have been a boon for some businesses, such as snow-removal services, hardware stores and other winter weather-related companies, but most other owners have struggled.

In the past month, wicked weather shuttered a Starbucks in Ann Arbor, ski resorts throughout the metro area and smaller bars and restaurants in Detroit’s Midtown and downtown districts.

Many succumbed to broken water pipes, while others simply decide to close because of a lack of customers during snowy or extremely frigid days.

Some business owners have taken to social media to advertise sales and keep their brand in the public eye — all in the hopes of attracting customers who would otherwise stay in their homes.

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