Lots of white = lots of green

For many an entrepreneur, snowstorms mean a time to dig in and make money

February 08, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

Jarett Merritt watched as several residents of a Glen Burnie neighborhood used snowblowers to clear mounds from driveways. But rather than lust after such a seemingly handy machine, the 20-year-old college student scoffed.

"The only real way to do this is with manpower," said Merritt, shortly after he and a friend used shovels to clear a path for a woman to back out of her garage. "Good old-fashioned hard work always pays off."

It did for Merritt and others who used this weekend's snowstorm to turn a profit. They offered to clear driveways, parking spots, front porches and the like - for a fee, of course - by advertising online.

Merritt charged $30 for the one-hour job he did for Veronica Barfield. With two shovels, a broom and a hoe that he used to break up stubborn areas, Merritt and Frek Maduot, 22, had the blacktop on the driveway showing in less than an hour, the snow neatly packed along the sides.

A snowblower or small plow, one might think, could have shaved off a considerable amount of time from the job. Ronald Jones swears by them.

Jones, 55, who lives in the 7900 block of Covington Ave. in Glen Burnie, was using a snowblower to clear a path for his van; work that would have taken him 30 minutes took him less than five, he said. Just as important, "it's saving my back."

But Merritt challenges that notion, saying the snow, which had risen to more than 2 feet in Barfield's driveway, would have been pushed by the snowblower to the street and ultimately become someone else's problem.

"Somebody could bring a plow through here if they wanted to, but the snow isn't going to go anywhere," said Merritt, who attends Howard Community College. "The best way is to have one person hit the top of the snow, then another come and hit the bottom and get the rest. It's like a production line."

Whatever the method, the result was what the patron wanted.

"He did a great job," said Barfield, whose driveway in the 600 block of Rhone Court has a slight incline. "And I was desperate. People had been promising to come by. But he came through."

It's a system Merritt said he has perfected the past nine years.

He started shoveling out neighbors, first when his family lived in Prince George's County, then when it moved to Glen Burnie.

Friends and helpers have come and gone through the years, some finding the work too tedious. But Merritt has kept at it, working with Maduot for the first time after the two met in school.

"This was all [Merritt's] idea," Maduot said. "But it was good though, because I was doing nothing, just sitting at home."

By Sunday afternoon, they had fielded more than 20 calls from people all over the region asking about their availability. They limited themselves to Anne Arundel County, canvassing jobs from Odenton to Glen Burnie and points in between.

Merritt will admit his muscles tighten up sometimes while shoveling. It can be grueling labor, especially when the jobs come back to back, with little break between.

His motivation, though, is one of the oldest known to man. Merritt wants to net $300 and use the money to buy a plane ticket to Vero Beach, Fla., where his girlfriend lives.

"I need to get to Florida to see my lady on Valentine's Day," Merritt said.

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