Roasted is one of the small businesses on the South Side that has been impacted by COVID-19. The snowstorms over the month of February have caused many local businesses to lose customers due to being open for less hours. (/B&W Staff)

Winter weather: how it’s affecting South Side small businesses

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Bethlehem’s winter weather has proved a challenge to local businesses as they attempt to keep their doors open to customers. 

February’s snowstorms have made it especially hard for business owners and their employees to safely get to work, which has had a lingering effect on local businesses. 

“We’ve had to cover lots more hours than we expected, said Jill Matthews, co-owner of Dinky’s Ice Cream Parlor and Grill. “Financially it’s tough. There are things that we used to do that we have had to cut back.”

Matthews and her husband, Norman, own and manage two Dinky’s locations. The winter weather has made it increasingly difficult to split their time evenly between the two, Matthews said.

Zach Martinez, general manager of Steel Fitness Club Riverport, said they have closed twice this month due to weather.

Martinez has given some of his employees rides to work because they do not have the proper  vehicles to drive in snow.

“We have a gentleman that is blind that usually walks to workout but due to the snow he can’t feel with his cane,” Martinez said. “I have been picking him up these past two weeks.”

Martinez said they have seen an increase in foot traffic and about half of their members are walking. 

“My first concern is my employees,” said Derek Wallen, owner of Roasted Bethlehem. “Some of them that drive are not comfortable driving around in this weather.”

Roasted has been forced to close early and some days entirely due to the recent weather. Wallen said most of his staff lives nearby so they are able to remain open most days despite poor conditions.  

Wallen said maintenance like salting and shoveling has become a team effort among workers. 

Matthews said they have adapted to doing deliveries, which has saved them during the colder months. 

“A lot of people see us as an ice cream store, but we are selling a lot more than that,”  Matthews said. “Anytime we have decided to stay open during the wintertime it has been tough.”

Matthews said a small increase in temperature leads to more customers and sales that day. 

Wallen adapted to delivery as well and attributed a boost in the number of deliveries to posts on social media. He said he switched to doing deliveries in-house, rather than through a third-party service, so they can deliver promptly to customers stuck at home. 

Martinez was disappointed that the city did not plow the parking lot near the gym. He said that some members have been ticketed because the lot is not accessible. 

Matthews and Wallen were both happy with the city’s effort to plow the streets. They said that the streets were cleared promptly considering the difficulties of a busy street. Wallen said that the snow can pile up between cycles at times, but the city is ultimately good at maintaining it. 

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