Businesses cash in on heat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 29, 1999

While temperatures continue to rise, so do profits for many area businesses.

Thursday, July 29, 1999

While temperatures continue to rise, so do profits for many area businesses. Businesses that can offer ways to beat

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or at least tolerate the heat are benefiting from the scorching temperatures that have hit Albert Lea. But the rising mercury has also had some negative effects as well.

“The hotter it gets outside, the busier we are,” said Don Vanderploeg, a sales representative and dispatcher at Jim & Dude’s. “This time is always busy for us, but it’s a little more busy this year.”

Vanderploeg said the company mostly installs and repairs central air systems this time of year, but they get calls daily to service air conditioning units as well. And many other customers are looking to buy new systems to keep cool.

“A lot of people without who want a new air conditioner, and we’re just plain running out,” Vanderploeg said. “We have enough to keep up with our current customers, but we can’t take on too many new ones.”

As the hot spell continues, demand for both service and equipment will continue as well, meaning that some customers will have to wait a while, Vanderploeg predicted.

Those who have well-running air conditioning and central air should be thankful, Vanderploeg said.

“If you run it all the time and keep the house cool, you can’t complain. Your electric bills might be high, but at least you’ll be comfortable,” said Vanderploeg.

Despite the increased usage in electricity, Lana Isaacson, account manager for Alliant Utilities, said the company will continue to provide service without interruption for its customers.

The company has interrupted the service to several industrial clients who are a part of Alliant’s peak alert program.

“It allows us to call an interruption of services for industrial use,” Isaacson said. In return, the companies receive credit for the time service was interrupted.

It has also allowed Alliant to continue service to residents without interruptions. However, they do ask customers to reduce their usage during peak times.

“The critical times are between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. But it’s strictly on a voluntary basis,” Isaacson said.

And residents are reducing some of their electrical usage by leaving the stove and oven off and turning to others to do the cooking.

“It’s too hot to cook,” said Penny Polis, owner of Domino’s pizza and Quizno’s Subs.

Home delivery of pizzas has increased because of both the heat and the occasional storms.

“It’s (the amount of business) been higher, probably about 20 percent,” Polis said of business this July compared to last.

“The staff has been wonderful to volunteer to take the overtime,” Polis said. “And the customers have been understanding too. They know we’re really busy.”

To combat high temperatures outside and the heat generated by the equipment inside, Polis said they had to update the air conditioning unit.

“We’re just trying to make everyone, employees and the customers, as comfortable as possible,” she said.

Residents who don’t have the means to cool their homes are heading out for dinner, which has helped Green Lea Golf Course to balance out its business.

With the periods of high temperatures separated only by storms and rain showers, the business on the course has dropped a little this year compared to last, said Manager Jeff Elseth.

“Obviously people don’t like to be out in the heat. Those who do play are usually out earlier in the day or later,” Elseth said. “The up side is the fact that golf car rentals are up.”

But the restaurant has been busier this July than last, he said.

“When it gets hot, people would rather go out and let somebody else do all the work,” Elseth said. “The food business has been very good this year.”

While the business is keeping plenty of green in the till, it’s the conditions of the greens outside that worries Elseth most.

“The biggest issue is the course condition. The temperatures and humidity create conditions favorable to cause disease to the turf,” he said.

Green Lea has taken measures to prevent damage to its course, using chemicals that help ward off the disease and keep the plants healthy.

Because of that and other preventative measures, Elseth doesn’t anticipate too many problems even if the heat wave should continue.

Meanwhile other area businesses are happy to see more sun in the upcoming forecast.

Culligan Water Conditioning has been making more deliveries than usual, and picking up some new customers.

“From just three weeks ago, business has probably gone up about a fourth,” said Lori Masters, office manager for the company that supplies cool drinking water to the area.

“We’ve picked up more, selling new coolers and making more deliveries,” she said.

“Dollars and sense wise, it’s good, but I worry about our guys,” Masters said. Not all of the drivers have air conditioning in their trucks, and several have worked overtime.

“We do borrow someone from another store to handle some of the deliveries. It helps keep overtime down. Since we’re able to keep our costs down, we don’t have added costs to pass on to the customers,” Masters said.

The company has also had no problems keeping up with the demand for its product.

“Our distributor is also our corporate office in Waseca. If we’re drawing short, we can always get extra deliveries from them on short notice,” she said.

And of course, the old stand-by during the hot summer months is also benefiting from the heat. Ice cream shops like Dairy Queen are always busy in July, and more so this year. But they don’t seem to mind a bit.

“It’s fun to be in a business like ours on a hot summer day like today,” said Kathy Kraus, owner of local Dairy Queens. “It’s great. It’s always been fun to serve ice cream on these hot days.”

The restaurant has prepared for the increased demand as well. Kraus said they’ve increased the ice cream machines used in the stores,” so we would be ready for days like this,” Krause said.

Kraus said she wasn’t sure how much business has increased this year over last, but said this summer has been busy.

“Our business is tied so much to the weather,” she said.

But even the brief periods of rain hasn’t slowed business.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the 90s through the end of the week.