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Harsh winter boosts salt sales at hardware stores

February 01, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Charlie Startzman, owner of Startzman's Hardware in Hagerstown, has a wide selection of snow shovels at his store.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

If it starts with an "S," local hardware stores are selling it.

Salt, sleds and snow shovels are the hottest selling commodities when winter storms hit, several local hardware store owners said.

"We're running out of salt in a hurry," said Theodore Hovermale, owner of Clear Spring Hardware on Cumberland Street. "The problem is we can't get more. The suppliers are running out, too."

But despite being low on salt, Hovermale said the biggest shortage is customers. January and February are typically the slowest months for hardware stores, which get more customers in the spring when people start to garden.

In addition to selling a lot of salt, the Ace Home Center in Cavetown is selling large amounts of birdseed and wood pellets for stoves, store manager JoAnn Francis said.

"Heating-type products and weather-related items are what's selling," Francis said. "We had to reorder shovels and bagged salt many times this year."

Francis said the Ace Home Center received two pallets of deicing salt on Monday, but it sold out by Tuesday morning. Deicing salt is selling faster than rock salt — even though it is about twice as expensive — because deicing salt works better at lower temperatures. She said rock salt costs $6.29 for a 50-pound bag, compared to $13.99 for a 40-pound bag of deicing salt.

Charlie Startzman, owner of Startzman's Hardware on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown, said the best-selling items in the winter are snow shovels, deicing agents and plastic sleds. The store also sells a lot of kerosene wicks.

"We've gone through five or six dozen sleds," said Startzman, adding his sleds range in price from $13.89 for a disk model to $21.99 for a toboggan. "We're about all out of salt and shovels. We didn't have a whole lot to start with."

He said sales usually taper off this time of year unless it's "a good, hard winter."

"If you have a mild winter, things are really slow," he said.

Paul Corderman, owner of Corderman Hardware on West Washington Street in Hagerstown, also said he was about out of salt.

"I'll know tomorrow if they have any left," he said. "The suppliers start to run out in February."

Corderman said he looks forward to spring, when business picks up with the start of the gardening season.

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