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February 6, 2014

Snow removal crews may be among few happy with extreme weather

TERRE HAUTE — Not everyone hates winter.

Take Jack Schoffstall, owner of Big Jack’s Lawncare and Snow Removal in Terre Haute.

Snow, and lots of it, has been real good for business.

“I don’t mind snow. I’ll take all the snow I can get. It’s like money falling from the sky,” Schoffstall said Wednesday as he finished a job at the 12 Points Dollar General.

Snowmageddon 2014 has kept his business busy. “It’s probably one of the best winters in a long time,” he said.

When interviewed about 10 a.m. Wednesday, he had been “pushing snow” for about 18 hours, through the night. He anticipated continuing all day “until we get the jobs done.”

With a big snow storm, he may go a few days without sleep, but only with the help of a lot of coffee, he said.

He’s operated the business about 20 years, and currently, he has five people working for him. Big Jack’s uses four pick-up trucks with plows and it also has other equipment for sidewalks, including a snowblower, shovels and backpack blower for lighter snow.

He has about 80 accounts and plows for several businesses, including restaurants, as well as individuals.

About two months ago, he opened a shop that does snow plow parts and repair work. Talk about good timing. “Business has been good,” he said.

Tuesday’s snowstorm isn’t nearly as bad as what occurred during the Polar Vortex, which was hard on vehicles and equipment because of the cold, ice, and the wet, heavy snow.

“This snow is drier,” Schoffstall said.

Meanwhile, Adam Wolfe, an owner of WC LawnCare, was plowing a parking lot at Show Me’s on South Third Street around noon.

“It’s been very, very busy. Today, I’m on my 36th hour straight with no sleep,” he said. That 36 hours included a separate full-time job that he had worked Tuesday before he started plowing.

WC Lawncare is family owned, and it’s the fourth year Wolfe has done snow removal.

During the Polar Vortex, which he described as Snowpocalypse, he had to turn down about 64 customers. “You can only do so much with two trucks,” he said.

He has about 100 lawn customers and clears snow for more than 35 residential and commercial customers.

“It’s not bad this time because it’s a dry snow and not a lot of ice involved,” Wolfe said. “It’s not melting very fast. It’s when it melts that it becomes very heavy and sticks to your blades and it’s a lot harder to push.”

The Polar Vortex was challenging because “we had to go back and hit a lot of customers more than one time. It was hard to get caught up,” Wolfe said.

For that weather event, the business plowed for about 64 hours over five days. “We had a lot of people who weren’t normal customers,” he said.

While he likes the money, “It just makes for long nights and you don’t get to spend much time with your family,” Wolfe said. “But with crazy Indiana weather, you got to push it while it’s on the ground. If not, it might be gone the next day.”

He also notes it takes a lot of money to run the plows; fuel is expensive, general upkeep is needed and “you have to pay people pretty decent money to plow because no one will do it for minimum wage, sitting in a truck all night.”

While he likes winter, Wolfe is ready for the grass to start growing so he can mow, instead of plow.

Meanwhile, at the Party Cask on South 25th Street, John Hemminghouse attached a plow to his ATV and cleared the parking lot. He wore a helmet and a safety vest and had a yellow light on the ATV.

He doesn’t operate a business. “I’m doing it to help people out and make a little extra money,” he said. “I know the gal who runs the store here.”

In fact, when he offered to help clear snow, she told him, “I’ll give you $35 and a bottle of wine to do this.” Hemminghouse told her, “You have job.”

Joan Lacey, who works at the store, found him a few other clients. She also went outside and shoveled. “I have to make sure my people can walk without falling,” she said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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