Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
In heat, their businesses heat up
BY CATHY JETT
Don Merritt hasn’t had many orders for hot drinks this week.
But the owner of Blackstone Coffee Company in Eagle Village in Fredericksburg isn’t complaining.
Customers at every table last Thursday, when the temperature soared to 100 degrees, were sipping iced coffee, iced tea, an Italian soda or a Blackstone Chiller—a frozen drink made with espresso.
“I don’t think that since 11 o’clock today we’ve sold two cups of hot coffee,” said Merritt.
Blackstone shifts gears from mainly making hot drinks to serving more of their icy cousins each summer. But unseasonably pleasant temperatures earlier this month made the spike near triple digits this week—and the resulting demand for all things cool—more noticeable than usual.
“It’s been dramatic the last two days,” Merritt said.
The stifling heat and humidity also sent many scurrying for the comfort of the mall, movie theaters and frozen yogurt shops. And it prompted stops at hardware stores and calls to pool companies and heating and air conditioning businesses.
Many moms who’d normally take their children to the park or the pool during the summer, for example, headed to Spotsylvania Mall and its KidsZone play area once the thermometer began to climb this week.
“Rather than take the kids home, you can come here for lunch, the kids can stay active and it’s a nice, controlled temperature for them,” said Matt Boarts, the mall’s operations manager.
He said that traffic inside the mall always gets a bump after school lets out for the summer, but it’s been up about 33 to 50 percent this week.
“It was pretty packed today,” Boarts said.
Marquee Cinemas—Southpoint 9 in Massaponax has noticed a similar trend. It’s usually bustling on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings during the summer when it screens kiddie movies for free. But it was about 30 percent busier than usual on Thursday as well.
“That’s normal. That’s summertime,” said manager Chris Boggs. “That happens every year.”
Seasonal business also has been booming over at Sammy T’s Frozen Yogurt, 801 Caroline St. Tourists and local families alike have been coming in for their choice of the icy confections and various toppings since the mercury began to rise.
“Sales have increased at least $100 a day since the first of the week,” said Jimmy Crisp, Sammy T’s general manager.
Earl’s True Value Hardware at 300 Chatham Heights Road in Stafford County saw a 25 to 30 percent increase in sales of fans, patio umbrellas and window air conditioner units earlier this week, said manager George Ritchie.
“The first heat wave of the season is always best for sales of anything like that,” he said.
For The Pool Company in Westwood Shopping Center, however, soaring temperatures are a mixed bag. While the heat stresses pools and increases the need for products to keep the water clean, fewer people are using their pools so they’re less likely to spot something wrong.
“If they aren’t keeping up with chemicals, they’ll notice that the water is getting cloudy or green,” said owner Ron Thornton. “They’ll need to add chlorine shock or an algaecide and run the filter more.”
Heat pump and air conditioner problems are more likely to crop up in extremely hot weather as well. Robert B. Payne Inc., a heating and air conditioning company at 1209 Lafayette Blvd., was besieged with calls this week.
“It’s like somebody flipped a switch in here,” service manager Wes McKoy said on Thursday. “We’ll probably run 100 calls today, I’m sure.”
He said the majority of calls are from people whose air conditioners quit or whose units were leaking condensation.
“When an air conditioner runs in this kind of heat, it puts out a bathtubful of water,” McKoy said. “If the drain’s partially blocked, it will show up today as a problem. If it’s 80 degrees, it’s fine. But today, with that onslaught of water, it’s going to show up.”
Air conditioners also can run into trouble if the amount of refrigerant is just a tad low on really hot days, he said.
“Everything is maxed out on a day like today,” McKoy said.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407