Snowfall slows down some Arlington businesses, benefits others

Steve Clariday, owner of Benchmark Jewelry on Olympic Avenue, cleans the snow and ice off his car on Feb. 24, from when he parked it overnight outside of his store. - Kirk Boxleitner
Steve Clariday, owner of Benchmark Jewelry on Olympic Avenue, cleans the snow and ice off his car on Feb. 24, from when he parked it overnight outside of his store.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — A midweek snowfall seemed to inconvenience Arlington residents and workers more by affecting their school schedules and numbers of customers than by impacting driving conditions within the city itself.

On Olympic Avenue, Petite Sweet and Magic Shears saw their foot traffic decline sharply on Feb. 22-24, while the Local Scoop and the Blue Bird Cafe held steady at their regular levels for this time of year.

"I just had my first customer in two days," Magic Shears hair stylist Erin Johnson said on Feb. 24. "I have four-wheel drive, so the roads don't bother me, but other people are blocked in by iced-over country back-roads. Two years ago, the city was unprepared, but they've been doing very good so far."

"It's slowed down our customer traffic, but all of our staff has managed to show up," said Sherie Rzeczkowski, owner of Petite Sweet, whose employees all live within half an hour's driving distance during better weather. "The streets are looking pretty good. There's hardly any problems. It's just cold."

Linda Clifford, co-owner of the Local Scoop, saw little difference between the business her restaurant did during those three snow days and what's been a slow season for them all winter long.

"We're hoping it picks up with the summer and the economy," Clifford said. "Our folks haven't had any problems getting in, although some of their shifts have started a little later. The city's response to the snow has been excellent. They've been out in force clearing the streets."

Kari Gilbert, manager of the Blue Bird Cafe, echoed the positive opinions of Clifford, Rzeczkowski and Johnson regarding the work done by the city's street crews.

"Our business gets a bit slower at night, but it never affects our mornings too much," Gilbert said. "Those people will get here for breakfast come Hell or high water."

Over at Brooster's, Anthony and Bethany Turner reported that their business actually did better than usual in the wake of the snowfall.

"When school's out, we get more families coming in with their kids," said Anthony Turner, a cook. "The weather never deters our regulars. They'll stop by and hang out for a while to watch the snow. Some of them have still made it down twice a day during these snow days."

In spite of heavy snowfall in Darrington, Brooster's employees from that neck of the woods have still made it in for their shifts. By contrast, waitress Bethany Turner noted that weather forecasts for her home in Everett significantly overestimated how many inches of snow she would see when she woke up on Feb. 24.

Lakewood High School freshman Jacob Van Winkle got treated to breakfast at Brooster's by his father, Brian, that morning, but aside from enjoying the free meal, Jacob was already impatient for his "vacation" to be over.

"I'd rather be in school," Jacob Van Winkle said. "I'd rather get up early in the morning for school now than in June."

Brian Van Winkle, a general contractor, was also forced to take a "vacation" due to the weather, which he regarded as a minor hassle.

"I've lived here my whole life," Brian Van Winkle said. "This is no big deal. It's a lot better than it was two years ago."

Steve Gish, who moved to Arlington relatively recently, nonetheless agreed with Van Winkle.

"Driving through town has been totally easy," Gish said. "I was expecting a little more snow."

Steve Clariday wasn't nearly as optimistic when he chose to spend the night at his store, Benchmark Jewelry on Olympic Avenue. After parking his car on the street at 10 p.m. on Feb. 23, he woke up on the morning of Feb. 24 to find it covered in snow and ice, but he considered his peace of mind well worth the extra time spent clearing off his car windows.

"You can tell that's about four inches we had last night," Clariday said as he scraped away the snow and ice. "I slept in my shop. Why waste the gas? I live in Trafton, so I just didn't want to take any chances."

Arlington Public Works Director Jim Kelly praised city street crews for working in 12-hour shifts for three days straight to lay down 800 tons of sand and salt onto 1,000 lane-miles of road.

"Proper preparation can help you stay ahead of a storm, which benefits the community," Kelly said. "Our Public Works crews put in 110 percent worth of effort here. Somebody has to sweep up the streets, and while it's not glorious work, it is critical work to maintaining our quality of life. These people do all this work without getting any credit for it, so I want to congratulate them on a job well done."

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