The storm's big winners, losers Ups and downs: Muscled entrepreneurs with a shovel were in this week, while therapists with snowbound clients were out.

January 13, 1996|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Gary Cohn, Peter Hermann, Elaine Tassy and Ginger Thompson contributed to this article.

Each of life's conditions has its winners and losers, and Baltimore's weather this week turned the usual rules upside down.

Anyone with a strong back and a sturdy shovel was in business, well-equipped to make extra money. Anyone with a strong back and a broom was not; cleaning services were shut down, and customers were letting the mess wait until next week.

Therapists were very depressed; in fact, they were going crazy. Every new snow warning meant another patient calling up to cancel and dollars lost that are gone forever.

Even worse, some patients discovered snow was downright therapeutic. Stuck at home and freed of the stress of everyday life, they were feeling better than ever -- for free.

Out of 20 appointments earlier this week, Sherry Bellow, a Crofton psychologist, saw one patient. The patient offered her some free advice: Go home. "I am feeling a little lonely," she said.

The snow has been a tonic for anyone suffering from agoraphobia, a fear that keeps people inside, away from crowds, she said. Hiding out at home demonstrated very good mental health for a change.

Shirley Landon, a therapist whose hospital staff job fell victim to managed care restrictions, felt the pinch in her new private practice. "I still have to pay the office rent," she said, "and I have no income and no chance to make it up."

Some of her patients won't get another chance -- their managed care time limits ran out yesterday. They hadn't waited until the last minute -- they were canceling Friday appointments Tuesday. "They're worriers anyway," she said.

While those who treat the mind lost out, those who treat the flesh ZTC couldn't keep up. "We have a lot of people coming in because they hurt themselves by shoveling," said Shannon Flannery, office manager at Dabbs Chiropractic Wellness Center in Columbia.

Supermarkets and convenience stores profited from the snow, but caterers were ruined. They don't need any snow at all for the damage to begin.

"Whether the snow actually happens or not, it doesn't matter," said Nick Sheridan of Cuisine Catering. "People hear snow, and they cancel."

His company had been waiting for the holiday rush to end before having its own staff party this week. The theme was the islands, and everyone was to bring something tropical to eat. It was canceled. "That was a real drag," Mr. Sheridan said. He sends unused food to soup kitchens.

He has had several events canceled, including weekly luncheons that won't be rescheduled. "There are losses you just can't make up," he said.

Video stores were the big, big winners. "What's really amazing," said Kelly Hurst, manager of Video Americain in Charles Village, "is that people are going out in droves as if terrified that they'll actually have to read or speak to each other."

He said some customers took out 12 and 14 videos at a time this week. "We've rented some movies that haven't gone out in a year," he said.

On Sunday, the video store did double the normal business in six hours. The Video Americain on Cold Spring Lane rented about 1,200 videos the day the snowfall began, Mr. Hurst said. That day was the store's second-busiest in more than six years of business.

Anyone not watching a video was glued to the television set, fascinated by the storm's progress. At the end of the month, said Wanda Draper, director of public affairs at WBAL, viewership and ratings will be examined and advertising prices may go up as a result.

Lawyers, naturally, argue both sides of the snow. Jim Shea, managing partner of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, said two lawyers came into the office Sunday -- keeping those billable hours ticking -- and others worked by computer from home. Lawyers got into the office Monday and Tuesday, as well.

"The work needs to be done," he said, "It's just a question of when it will be done."

Michael E. Kaminkow, a criminal defense lawyer, has a client who was jailed Jan. 5 on drug charges. She had to spend a couple of extra days locked up because no judges were available. "It really brings a law practice to a standstill," he said.

Already overloaded court dockets will be even worse, said Ben Rosenberg, a lawyer who has a big civil case coming up next week and had trouble taking depositions he needs. "It is a nightmare," he said. "What I'm losing is time. It's not so much the money, it's the days."

Early this week, Baltimore police were on 12-hour shifts and earning overtime, which pleased them. The brass worked without overtime, and Maj. Bert E. Shirey Jr., commander of the Northeastern District station, spent what time he had for sleep on his office cot. "That got kind of old," he said.

At Tidewater Yacht Sales near Edgewater in Anne Arundel County, Mark A. Schulstad, the general manager, had several days of despair this week. He needed a permit to get a 33-foot-long, 11 1/2 -foot-wide Bayliner on the highway. The luxury yacht sells for about $140,000.

"Here's the situation," he said. "We've got a boat show to go to at the Baltimore Convention Center. We need permits to move it on the highway. The State Highway Administration is not open."

At the last moment, he got the permit and pulled the boat to Baltimore, where a $5,000 space awaited him at the boat show.

Retailers, who already have suffered through a weak December, lost sales that will never be recovered. At Towson Town Center, Christopher S. Schardt, the general manager, said an average January day brings in approximately $300,000 to the mall's 200 stores.

"There's not much you can do about it -- you're not going to make it up, so those sales are pretty much gone," he said.

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