BOULDER, Colo. –
Restaurants on the Pearl Street Mall went dark Thursday afternoon. An expansive parking lot outside the Flatiron Crossing mall in Broomfield sat empty all day. Gas station nozzles around Boulder County froze to the pump for lack of use.
By the evening hour, after Thursday’s spring storm had dumped more than 16 inches of snow in some parts of Boulder County, most of the cars on the roads were either tow trucks, snow plows or pizza delivery vehicles.
“It definitely helps our business a lot,” said Chris Dennis, manager at Boulder’s Black Jack Pizza.
Not all companies share the sentiment. Snow days can trap families inside and hamper the local economy in a major way, said Charles Goeldner, University of Colorado emeritus professor of marketing and tourism. Fortunately, Goeldner added, the sun usually is quick to follow the snow in Colorado, causing slush and ice to disappear in time to limit the finical impact to one day.
“Over the long term,” he said, “it doesn’t tend to have too great an impact.”
Most businesses will make up revenue they lost for closing early Thursday because, Goeldner said, people still will need to fill their cars with gas, buy groceries, purchase that gift and see that movie once the snow melts. Only businesses like airlines, hotels and rental cars lose out for good, Goeldner said.
“When you cancel flights, those seats are perishable and can never be sold again,” he said.
And, for some businesses, snow brings good news that it’s finally time to work. When flurries started stacking up early Thursday, pizza drivers, snow plowers, ski resort operators and tow-truck drivers watched their business swell.
‘Money in their pocket’
Long before dawn Thursday, Mike Roberts and his drivers at Marv’s Towing in Boulder were preparing for a big day. By mid-morning, he said, they were working frantically on U.S. 36 to remove stalled cars and drag vehicles from ditches.
“This sort of thing is fun for them, definitely,” Roberts, general manager for Marv’s Towing, said about the company’s drivers, who work on commission. “When it snows, it’s definitely money in their pocket.”
Drivers earn a percentage of the amount they charge per car tow, and Roberts said Thursday was a big money maker.
“Our business is definitely dictated by weather,” he said, adding that Marv’s sees a 50 percent increase in calls during and after storms. “Sometimes it’s double.”
In a 24-hour period this week, Marv’s Towing received about 150 calls, compared with about 80 calls on a normal day.
Plowing companies also turned Thursday’s winter white into green, cashing in on tough-to-reach driveways and rarely plowed neighborhoods.
Pizza deliveries also spike during storms.
“It’s easy for people to have us just bring pizzas to them,” said Dennis, the manager for Boulder’s Black Jack Pizza.
Snowstorms drive up business about 25 percent, he said, and about 12 drivers were on duty for Thursday’s dinner rush.
“People were pretty amazed we were still open,” Dennis said.
Many eateries — like BJ’s Brewhouse and Boulder Beer Company — closed hours before they normally do Thursday to make sure employees got home safe.
BJ’s corporate office made the decision to close all its Colorado stores at 4 p.m. Thursday, and manager Luke Petersen said that as they were locking up, people were calling to ask if BJ’s was making deliveries.
“The phone was ringing like crazy, and we were kind of busy,” Petersen said.
Dan Weitz, marketing director for Boulder Beer, said the pub had a reasonable amount of business before workers decided to head home around 4 p.m.
“We did have a few intrepid souls brave the snow,” Weitz said. “So we poured them a beer and said we were on our way out.”
Thursday is one of the company’s busiest nights, he said, so it definitely missed out on some revenue.
“But, I think being Coloradans, we take it all in stride, and we like that it’s pretty outside,” Weitz said.
Both the Flatiron Crossing mall in Broomfield and the Twenty Ninth Street mall in Boulder closed around 1 p.m. Heather Drake, senior marketing manager for both malls, said she believes the shopping centers will make up any lost revenue as the weather clears.
“I think it can be made up with the weekend and spring break,” she said.
Officials rarely make the decision to close the mall, Drake said, but so few people were shopping Thursday that they thought it best for the safety of their workers.
“That’s our biggest concern,” she said.
Boulder Gas closed its stations about four hours early Thursday, and when a gasoline truck arrived Friday morning to refill the tanks, there wasn’t enough room, said Boulder Gas manager Noor Ataurahman.
Business had been so poor the day before that “they had to take some back,” he said.