Cold cash: Businesses helped, hurt by Old Man Winter

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Despite enduring the harshest winter in 35 years, the impact on Minnesota's overall economy has not been significant and some businesses have actually benefited, according to a joint story by KARE and MPR News.

The story noted that the state's 2.8 million working people generate $800 million in economic activity, according to Toby Madden, an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. That engine keeps chugging despite the cold, and won't ultimately upset Minnesota's economic equilibrium.

Plow drivers and body shops have been thriving in the misery, the story said. It also noted that Dog Days, a canine day care center near downtown St. Paul, has been a howling success this winter. Owner Wendy Harter said business is up 20 percent this year, driven by pet owners who are unable to help their dogs get enough outdoor exercise.

The story added that service stations are selling more fuel for cars that burn up gasoline in stalled traffic, and babysitters and day care centers have been busy serving working parents during school snow days.

It's not just Minnesota that has been socked in; the Associated Press looked at the national picture. The story said that Ace Hardware is having its best winter in more than a decade for snowblower and shovel sales, with overall sales up by 20 percent from a year ago. And hibernating and home-bound consumers are upping take-out requests from Delivery.com. Sales at the company, which operates in metro areas including New York, Chicago and Washington D.C., jumped by 30 percent in January and February compared with the year before.

Travel companies are also seeing a bump as a result of the cold, according the Associated Press story. Online travel companies Orbitz.com and Jetsetter.com both reported a hike in bookings to warm-weather destinations.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Daily published a story about how the cold is putting the pinch on some restaurants, especially those relying on bicycle delivery on the snow-narrowed streets around the University of Minnesota. Rene Nichols, general manager of the Dinkytown Jimmy John’s, said the severe weather has endangered cyclists and slowed deliveries, costing the sub shop about $10,000 in sales.

Elizabeth Tiller-Braun, a college junior and server at Annie’s Parlour in Dinkytown, has seen the number of burger-munchers drop considerably during the winter months, with the number of tables she operates cut in half.

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