SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 13, 2013

Snow blows lots of business into downtown hardware store

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — Anytime is a good time to buy a snowblower, according to Steve Sands, who owns Danvers Hardware with brother-in-law Mark Fain.

But it’s not always a good time to be selling snowblowers, particularly given the mild couple of winters we’ve had recently. That all changed last week, however. And as the blizzard approached on Friday, the downtown hardware store got slammed with customers.

In the aftermath of the storm, Sands and Eric Hatch of Peabody, a Danvers Hardware technician, spoke about the challenges of selling snowblowers.

Perhaps last year might have been tough?

Sands: Last year was horrible, actually. As far as last year was concerned, it was kind of no winter at all, with a lot of stuff left over.

Did you sell a snowblower last year?

Sands: Yeah, yeah. We always sell snowblowers, but nothing like it’s been in the last few days. This storm here has just been unbelievable. ... These storms don’t come every year. We geared up for it. We had plenty of shovels, plenty of ice melt, plenty of snowblowers, plenty of all snow-related items.

How do you know what to stock, given a down year last year when there really wasn’t snow?

Sands: Being in business since 1966, you kind of know, basically, what to expect. This is nothing new for us.

Do you use “The Old Farmer’s Almanac”?

Sands: It is what it is. You never know what Mother Nature is going to bring to us. ... Sometimes we do have a lot of stuff we hold over until the next season, but we always try to stay prepared and stay ready for anything. We were definitely ready and prepared for this storm here.

Do people really buy a snowblower last-minute?

Sands: Yes.

Hatch (laughing): What is it, three so far this morning (on Monday)?

How much does a snowblower go for, in general?

Hatch: They start at $800 and go to $1,800.

It’s a wise investment to have one?

Hatch: If you live in the New England area, it’s crazy if you don’t have one, period. Don’t get me wrong: It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a snow pile like this, but if you live in New England and you are going to stay here, you need to have a snowblower. At least you are not burning out your back, you are not always hunting for a shovel, you are not always breaking a shovel handle.

What should people should look for when they buy a snowblower?

Sands: If it’s just something for themselves and it’s for their own driveway, if you have a two-car-wide driveway, two deep, you can go with a little-bit-smaller snowblower. If you are looking to do more with it, that’s when you have to go bigger.

Hatch: For a base-cut model, it would be a 9-24 ... Nine would be 9 horsepower, 24 would be how wide the bucket is (in inches).

It must be tough to be in a business that depends on seasonality to figure out what you are going to stock.

Sands: Absolutely. Every season is a little different. ... Again, I go back to being at it for quite a while. This is a third generation, so we’ve been taught very well from grandfather to my dad. It’s definitely a challenge, but a good challenge. We enjoy it, believe it or not.

Is now the time to invest in a snowblower?

Sands: I think anytime is a time to invest in a snowblower. Prices really don’t fluctuate, to be honest with you, so there is really no end of season, beginning of season. ... In New England, you never know what you are going to get.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.