By Alex Lippa
---- — The seemingly long winter is finally over.
At least it is according to the calendar.
Today marks the spring equinox and many seasonal businesses hope warmer weather comes with it.
“This is going to be the latest we’ve ever opened,” said Bob Leavitt of Leavitt’s Ice Cream in Atkinson. “The business all depends on the weather.”
Leavitt said he typically opens in mid-March. But this year, opening day is scheduled for March 28.
“We look at the long-range forecast and try to look at when it’s going to be consistently warm,” he said. “It still looks like it’s going to be cold, but we have to open eventually.”
It’s not just ice cream places that are affected. Local golf clubs are just waiting for the snow to melt off the course.
“We were really hopeful to get ahead of last year, when we opened on April 10,” said Peter Doherty, golf director at Atkinson Country Club. “But we are looking at it being later this year. In March, you expect the weather to turn, but there’s been no chance to melt the course.”
Joe Vaiknoras, superintendent of Brookstone Park in Derry, had hoped to open by the end of the month. But that plan appears to be in jeopardy.
“The longer and colder it gets, the longer it’s going to take the ground to warm up and for things to start getting green,” he said. “People are chomping at the bit to get out here. We might have a big rush once it does open up.”
At Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, people are tired of the cold weather.
“People are starting to get antsy,” said Elene Arguropoulos, a manager at Lake Street. “We’re hoping for a turn. We really want to get our outdoor area set up, but it looks like we may have a chaotic season.”
The weather has slowed the start of maple sugar season.
“It’s been lousy,” said Hank Peterson of Peterson’s Sugar House in Londonderry last week. “The sap hasn’t really started to flow yet. It’s just been too cold — the trees froze up.”
It doesn’t seem like things are going to change in the immediate future. Today may be the exception, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-40s before dropping again.
“Temperatures will continue to be below normal,” said Michael Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. “There could be a storm with snow on Saturday, and temperatures will be around freezing at the beginning of next week.”
To date, Cempa said, this is the sixth coldest March on record since the National Weather Service started tracking temperatures in Concord in 1868.
But not all seasonal businesses rely on the weather.
Clam Haven in Derry opened for the season as scheduled last week.
“We’re creatures of habit here,” owner Rick Metts said. “If it’s halfway decent, people are still going to come out.”
At lunchtime yesterday, there were still people outside Clam Haven, despite the temperature being well above freezing.
“Regardless of the weather, we still have to eat,” said Bob Kelsea of Epsom, waiting for his order at Clam Haven.
At Lake Street, Arguropolous said the greenhouse isn’t affected by the weather.
“It hasn’t really affected our planting schedule,” she said. “Our sales in the greenhouse are about normal.”
But other business owners are pretty unhappy with the weather..
“It’s going to be a challenge this year,” said Ray Matthes, owner of Matthes Landscaping in Salem. “As soon as the snow is gone, we’re going to get right to work, even if it is 20 degrees. The temperature doesn’t bother us, but we can’t do much with snow still on the ground.”
Matthes said he expects to be a month behind once he does get started.
“I don’t see us landscaping until April 15,” he said. “That will push us back and we are going to have to bring more guys in to get the same amount of work done. It’s going to cost us more and it’s definitely going to have a big financial impact on us.”
Leavitt said he would like to open earlier, but he would be putting the product at risk.
“If we open early and we don’t sell it fast enough, then the product becomes inferior,” he said. “Dairy can go bad. We’re very conscious of our health and our cleanliness.”
Ultimately, many businesses know it’s out of their hands.
“We’re basically a slave to the weather,” Vaiknoras said. “We can’t generally set a specific date. Just hope for no more snow.”