Andy Cooney, an employee at Detroit Hardware, moves rock salt into the store Monday. Hardware stores are seeing a spike in demand. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
Detroit – — With Michigan buried under snow and shivering in single-digit cold, service industries are seeing a surge in business from people who need help coping with winter’s sudden blast.
Plumbing and heating companies especially have seen an influx of emergency calls.
“We did get a call the other day where somebody had been out of town and their pipes froze and burst,” said Vita Goins, co-owner of G&P Plumbing and Drain Service in St. Clair Shores.
She said the best way to stop that is to close off crawl spaces and open cupboards to allow the heated air from the home to reach the pipes. “Leave the faucets slightly open so at least there’s a trickle,” said Goins.
Dan Boles, service manager for Lansing-based Michigan Plumbing, said calls for repairs have been up since the Dec. 21 ice storm that hit the region and left 40 percent of the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s customers without power.
“It was as busy then, if not busier, than it is now. Now with the snow, it adds a whole new level of chaos,” Boles said. “Minus 5 isn’t so bad, but when the wind comes along and changes it to minus 30, then it’s a problem.”
Technicians at Michigan Plumbing were given extra gloves and hand warmers to take to service calls. Although they will tell customers if the job is too dangerous to undertake, Boles says they have to get the work done.
“It’s like anyone else in the service industry,” he said. “We can’t really shut the doors like other places.”
The temperature outside was minus 16 degrees when Bill Mullan, the spokesman for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, discovered the furnace in his South Lyon home wasn’t working late Monday night.
Eventually, Mullan found a service technician who could replace the furnace’s broken igniter and get his heat back on within a couple of hours. By that time, the house was at 59 degrees.
“It’s a reminder that you can never be too prepared,” he said.
Hardware stores and engine repair shops also are dealing with a spike in demand.
When customers come into the Detroit Hardware Company on Woodward seeking shovels to battle the snow, co-owner Emily Webster has to tell them she can’t help them.
“We’ve sold every shovel we have in stock, including garden shovels,” she said.
The store’s shovel supplier was stuck in Ohio by this week’s snow and cold snap, and Webster doesn’t expect to get a new shipment until Friday. The store has plenty of rock salt, having gotten a shipment Monday.
Rochester Lawn Equipment is getting plenty of repair work.
“We’ve got four mechanics going full time and we’ve probably got three weeks of work right here,” said co-owner Frank Shorkey, in business since 1976. “We’re seeing a lot of snow blowers that haven’t been on in three or four years and have just been sitting in the back of the garage.”