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Wet weather takes toll on businesses

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 12:10 a.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Employee Paul Baker loads gravel at Kingston Supply Co. in Derry Township on July 1, 2013.

Rain fell on 15 days in June, draining away profits from contractors and supply businesses that hustle to bring in most of their annual revenue in just four or five fair-weather months.

“We have only 120 to 160 working days in a season,” said Andrea Houser, secretary-treasurer of J.R. Paving and Construction Company Inc. in Latrobe. “When you lose a week, you're not going to make it up.”

The business is “very much dependent on the weather,” Houser said, noting that workers couldn't do any paving or seal coating on asphalt driveways or parking lots due to rain.

“There were probably three jobs that we had to put to a halt,” she said.

According to meteorologist Lee Hendricks of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, 5.48 inches of rain fell in June — 1.18 inches above normal. The greatest amount in a 24-hour period was 1.7 inches from June 25 to 26.

For companies that work outdoors, as much as half an inch of rain can interrupt the work day.

Rain shrank retail sales by 3 percent to 5 percent last month at Country Farms Garden Center and Landscape Service in Hempfield, said general manager Jack Bachman. The company's work crews lost four and a half to five days of work time.

“It was hard to manage our workforce because of the steady rain,” he said. “When you're missing a day to a day and a half in a week, and you have 30 employees, that's 360 man-hours lost in a week.”

Bachman said employees will work longer hours to counter the setback, but that comes at a price — overtime pay will cost the company more.

Alois Painting in Greensburg could complete just half of its usual number of contracts in June, according to owner Ernie Shedlock.

“We've been on one job that we started last Tuesday, and that was the only day we got in,” he said.

Even on days without rain, Shedlock said, his crew could not work because building exteriors were not dry.

To make up for lost time, employees will work on weekends and focus on other projects, such as patios, he said.

Anthony Santone, owner of ASA Concrete Services and Repair, was frustrated that frequent showers during the past two weeks stymied the completion of several projects.

“The concrete needs to set and harden up before it rains,” he said. “The rain will destroy the concrete before the concrete has time to cure.”

Kingston Supply in Derry Township experienced a decline in hardscape supply sales, such as paving stones and retaining wall blocks, because the ground was saturated. But manager Brian Woy said the company is doing well with other materials.

“Our gravel business has been good because everyone is stuck in the mud,” he said.

The wet weather has washed out the schedule for porches, patios and retaining walls to be built by Cranberry-based Leisure Lawn Services, while the company's lawn-mowers are forced to work between the sporadic storms to finish in time for Independence Day, said Joe Madeja, president.

Saturated lawns prevent the company from sending in trucks and equipment for hardscaping jobs, since most contracts don't include a lot of money to repair lawns if the crews turn the softened ground into a muddy mess, he said.

“The ground's so wet, we'd need a good three or four days of dry weather before I can send them in,” Madeja said. “It's backing up one job after another. ... Every day we don't have our hardscaping crews out there, we're losing at least $2,000.”

“The rain poses an issue for us because we can't safely tear off a customer's roof and put on a new one in that kind of weather,” said T.J. Willetts, spokesman for Thornburg-based Burns & Scalo Roofing. “The flip side is that the repair and maintenance side of our business sees an increase in leak calls when it's raining heavily.”

Willetts said as many as two dozen of his company's roofing jobs had been delayed.

Trib Total Media staff writer Matthew Santoni contributed to this report. Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or

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