It’s been a different kind of mild winter for F.M. O’Rourke Hardware. Most customers are still buying materials to repair their Hurricane Irene-damaged homes four months after the storm than they are picking up cold weather-related wares.
“We’re actually getting more people coming in for the hurricane, to fix up their basements and to raise their houses,” said Frank O’Rourke, the son of the store’s owner.
With the winter’s first snowfall that delivered about three inches to Long Beach on Saturday, the West End hardware store sold more ice melt than shovels, but still relatively few of both. While there’s been a slight uptick in sales for items like space heaters, weather stripping and fire logs, more customers leave with paint remover to help them scrape off the tape they put on their windows before Irene hit last August.
“And we were expecting a huge winter after last year,” O’Rourke said about the two main storms that blanketed the barrier island in December 2010 and last January.
The store's storage area is still well stocked with shovels and de-icing, but he’s optimistic these might sell. “The winter is still young,” he said.
As a beach town on an island along the South Shore, Long Beach is a highly seasonal area where business can slow down considerably when winter arrives, especially if stores don’t sell goods typically used in cold weather. And relatively warmer climes doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales.
Over at TCBY, Shawn Patel had to shut down the franchise frozen yogurt shop on East Park Avenue for several days after last winter’s storm. This year’s lack of snow and freezing temperatures, though, has only made business marginally better.
“You do get a little more business, but it’s not like ‘wow,’” Patel said about recent sales of his cold treats.
Patel said managers at other TCBY stores that are more centrally located on Long Island, in Garden City and Plainview, report that they are cashing in more on the higer temperatures. But not only is Long Beach’s TCBY slower in winter, Patel said, its East End location likely adds to its sluggishness.
“There is a reason why Marvel closes for three months,” Patel said about the popular ice cream shop about a mile down the road on Lido Boulevard.
Luke Hamlet, owner of Long Beach Surf Shop on East Park Avenue, found that most of his customers were buying bathing suits and bikinis to take on their trips to Florida and the Caribbean to escape the brutal weather last winter. This year, however, he’s selling more surfboards and wet suits as surfers take advantage of the milder temps to hit the waves locally.
“Last year, people had to get the hell out of here, so I did well,” said Hamlet, who sells scant snow apparel. “I’m finding this year people are more willing to spend than in previous years.”
He attributes recent sales more to the economic times rather than the thermometer’s rising mercury. “I think the last few years, people haven’t spent much because of the slow economy,” Hamlet speculated, “so there seems to be a lot of pent up demand.”