Small Business

You won't believe how much Boston snowplowers make

Workers continue snow removal efforts in the Back Bay neighborhood the day after Winter Storm Juno, on January 28, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.
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It's the third major winter storm in about three weeks, and the frequency of emergency shutdowns—and accumulating snow—have been especially good for Boston snowplowers. Really good.

Frank Ippolito is owner of Ippolito Snow Services in the South End neighborhood of Boston. His phone won't stop ringing.

"We have been getting 100 calls a day for the past two weeks," Ippolito said. "You can't just take on all that business. It's about delivering on your promise."

We live for blizzards.
Frank Ippolito
Ippolito Snow Services in the South End neighborhood of Boston

During the past four weeks alone, his sales have neared the $400,000 mark. That's sharply higher than a typical winter season, when the snow removal company will bring in roughly $150,000.

"We live for blizzards," Ippolito said.

Snow levels were actually modest during the beginning of this winter. "They don't come as often as we like, and we were having a tough winter season because November and December were soft," he recalled.

Then Mother Nature kicked in. Boston has been hit with more than 60 inches of snow for the past 30 days, breaking a record set from Jan. 9 to Feb. 7, 1978, according to The Weather Channel.

"Our [business] contracts go into acceleration once we hit 12 inches of snow, and last week we had 30 inches," Ippolito said.

With the bounty of snow and work, Ippolito is no longer taking on additional contracts for the season, and he's investing the revenue back into his small business.

"We are investing in equipment it would have taken us three years to save for," Ippolito said.

Small business weathers storm
Small business weathers storm

But for other mom-and-pops not in the snowplowing business, the recent stretch of winter has dragged down sales and productivity.

On Sunday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called a statewide snow emergency, as schools were shut down for Monday and Tuesday. Baker urged business owners to close down and for non-essential employees to stay home from work.

Anthony Mirogiann is the owner of Village Cafe in Newton, Massachusetts. On a typical Sunday, he'll have a line out the door for breakfast. This past weekend, though, only a handful of customers trickled into the restaurant in the morning as the storm approached.

Mirogiann said he does what he can to stay open for business. "Unless there's a state of emergency, I will open up," he said. "It's frustrating. I will typically do about 20 percent to 30 percent of the week's business on a Sunday. "

During the last blizzard a week ago, Mirogiann remained open in the morning and only made about 10 percent of what the café would typically earn on a normal day.

"You deal with it, or try to deal with it," said the small business owner. "I have myself up to date with payments, and I try to have a bit saved in reserves in case something happens."

A 2014 study from IHS Global Insight found that a major storm with "impassable" roads could have a significant economic impact with just a one-day shutdown. The research showed a single day's shutdown in New York costs about $700.17 million, while Massachusetts loses about $265.12 million.

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And while storms can lower sales, other Boston area businesses have been hurt by a weather-related drop in productivity.

Larry Nannis is CPA at Katz Nannis + Solomon, an accounting firm in Waltham, Massachusetts. He says the storm shutdowns have essentially slowed down the tax-filing process. For the bulk of his clientele, which are businesses, the filing deadline is March 15.

"I can work from home, but if our clients are closed, they can't get us the information we need," Nannis said. "It's one less day we can work on a particular client. These things don't help when we are trying to make deadlines."

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