In Metro Detroit, snow keeps some home, draws others outdoors

Neal Rubin Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
A snowbank encroached on the Ginopolis' on the Grill sign at 12 Mile Road and Middlebelt in Farmington Hills.

For a restaurant owner, a snowstorm brings the same inconveniences everyone else deals with, along with questions. How many shifts do you cancel? How much prep work does the kitchen do? How late do you stay open?

Where is everybody?

At Ginopolis’ on the Grill in Farmington Hills, John Ginopolis knew the answer to that last one. They were home, mostly, in neighborhoods that hadn’t been plowed in time for lunch. Later, those who’d made it to work would want to slog home without a stop.

“This isn’t bad, because it’s legitimate,” he said. “The worst days are when they get on the air and tell you how bad it’s going to be, and then the storm never comes – and neither do the people.”

By noon, the theoretical start of the lunch rush, two tables were occupied. At one, Gloria Bonds of Detroit was celebrating her 71st birthday with her daughter and housemate, Tavia Bonds, 51.

“Regardless of how high the snow gets,” Gloria Bonds said, her birthday called for Ginopolis’ Montgomery Inn ribs, trucked north from Cincinnati. “You just have to drive slow.”

Detroiters Gloria Bonds, left, and daughter Tavia Bonds celebrated Gloria Bonds' 71st birthday Friday at Ginopolis' On the Grill in Farmington Hills. "You just have to drive slow," Gloria Bonds said.

John Trafelet, 71, a casino regulator from Farmington Hills, shared the other table with Farmington Hills fire chief Jon Unruh, 50.

Three decades ago, as a paid on-call firefighter, Trafelet hired Unruh. They meet for lunch every month – pulled pork sandwiches and house-made chips for both this time around -- and a few inches of snow were not going to get in their way.

In case of trouble, Unruh said, he had increased the usual Friday staff of 17 by three, and started everyone at the firehouses an hour early at 6:30 a.m. There had been no snow-related calls, but better safe than sorry.

“It’s when they start clearing their driveways,” Trafelet said. “That’s when the trouble starts. We’ve all done CPR on someone in his garage.”

Ginopolis stopped by the table and the talk turned to Cooperstown, New York – snow showers Friday, high of 24 degrees – where he will be the guest of former Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris at Morris’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The induction weekend is in late July.

“The roads should be clear by then,” Trafelet said.

When white brings in green

Heavy snowfall may disrupt some routines and lives but for some Oakland County businesses, the white stuff it can be a green windfall.

Like at Alpine Valley ski area off Highland Road in White Lake Township, where skiiers and snowboarders were camped out in the parking lot Friday morning before it opened for business. The parking lot and slopes, which handle about 1,000 enthusiasts on a good day, were getting more crowded, workers said.

“Its been great so far,” said Brian Snabes, director of marketing. “Conditions have been good: cold weather and lots of powder. We have had some natural snow but also since we have had cold temperatures, we have manufactured snow.

“But today, I expect we will have 8 inches of snow to ski on before the day is over and people are loving it.”

Snabes said school closures because of snow always bring out young skiiers and snowboarders. The start of the Winter Olympics is always a boon to sending people out to ski. “And when they see it coming down on their lawns, they really get really motivated.”

Snabes and others are excited about local snowboarder Kyle Mack, of West Bloomfield Township, who started out skiing and snowboarding at Alpine. Mack is trying to qualify for slope style snowboarding at the Pyeongchang Olympics, and if he makes it “we’ll be all cheering him on in the Hornets Nest (the Alpine bar),” Snabes said.

A few miles east on Dixie Highway outside Clarkston, nearly 5 inches had been reported to the National Weather Service, the highest community snowfall total in the county shortly after noon.  As a result, the folks at Weingartz company (“Everything from lawn to snow”) were seeing lots of foot traffic.

“In the morning the commercial customers – those needing parts or service on their plows and trucks – were in early today, followed by home owners bringing in their snowblowers or looking at new machines,” said Gerod Colby, of Weingartz’s parts and services department. “We have had a steady stream of customers coming in for one reason or another.

“I don’t know how many sales have been made today but any time it snows, it always means good business for us.”