AKRON-Record cold throughout the Midwest and East Coast the week of Jan. 16 boosted sales for dealers who focused on flat repairs and starting disabled cars. But the same arctic front that brought temporary prosperity to many outlets stifled business at others left short by employees and customers unable or unwilling to brave temperatures that fell as low as 25 degrees below zero.
Mark E. Toscano, president of Crystal Lake Tire & Battery in Crystal Lake, Ill., ``saw both sides of the coin'' at his retail, commercial and retreading outlet.
``We have sold a lot of batteries and my (automotive repair) shop is full,'' he said. ``(Normally), we have a lot of retail business and a lot of retreading business. Now, no one is even thinking about pulling tires for retreading. They are more worried about starting their trucks.''
In Brockton, Mass., temperatures dipped to 15 below zero-a low not seen for nearly 10 years, according to Neil Clark, manager of the local Westgate Tire & Auto Service.
Mr. Clark said the dealership ``fared extremely well'' throughout the week, selling all of its stock of 100 batteries on three occasions.
``The difference between us and the average tire shop is we do automotive service from oil changes to complete engine rebuilds,'' he said. ``We were swamped with business.''
Westgate Tire sold every snow tire in stock and was unable to get more shipments during the week.
Other dealers experienced difficulties receiving replacement auto parts as distributors became inundated with orders and snow and ice slowed or closed shipping channels across much of the nation.
Crystal Lake Tire was sold out of ``popular'' batteries for two days, Mr. Toscano said.
Record lows caused tires to go flat and created gaping potholes in roadbeds throughout the region, spurring business even at dealerships without auto repair shops.
Some dealers reported increases in the number of rim and bead leaks, many in tires mounted on aluminum rims unable to hold up under subzero temperatures.
The tire repair business at Renfro Auto Center in Wheaton, Ill., jumped 60 percent Jan. 18-19, according to owner Chip Renfro.
The weather boosted Mr. Renfro's sales, although he said ``we had to hurry, and it was kind of hectic for a while.''
Robert Cooper, owner of Cooper's Automotive Service in Florence, Ky., described business the week of Jan. 16 as ``horrible.''
Mr. Cooper said he had no trouble getting to the store that week, but his customers did. ``People just couldn't get in,'' he said.