Five red-hot businesses thriving amid Canada’s deep freeze

Salt sales are doing well this January -- in fact too well, with shortages affecting cities and towns across Canada. Getty Images

Roads have been turned into curling lanes and trees into contorted ice sculptures across much of the country east of the Rockies, at times paralyzing cities and towns battered by a deluge of wintry blasts this season. With more snow on the way this week – and sub-zero temperatures holding – experts suggest we settle in.

Times like these breed opportunity for businesses across several industries, though, from purveyors of ice-fighting goods and services to vacation package operators. We spoke to a few of them:

Salt biz

Many are currently suffering through the dietary blandness of a New Year’s resolution to cut salt intake. The demand picture however is the diametric opposite for table salt’s hardier variant used on our roadways. Across Ontario and provinces further east, bags of road salt have become something of a precious commodity.

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Witness, Exhibit A:

And, Exhibit B:

On the empirical front (or at least less anecdotal), regional wholesalers like The Salt Depot say they can barely keep up with demand.

“We’re running out of the bagged product quickly,” Tonii, a manager at the depot, said by phone Monday. “I had a customer last week with five gas stations that there was nothing we could do for.”

Further upstream on the salt supply chain, the Sifto salt mine in Goderich, Ont. – where much of the province ultimately sources its road salt from – the mine is busy ensuring reserves across the province don’t run out.

“This is what we prepare for,” Roland Howe, a spokesperson for the mine, said by phone.

Humming generator sales

As noted last week, finding a generator in an Ontario hardware store is about as easy to do at the moment as securing a few bags of salt.

Hot and cold pizza sales

Also not terribly surprising here, but it stands to reason food delivery services are reaping some incremental business from the not-so-nice weather of late. A quick search on (wait for it) Twitter, yields a range of musings from pizza orderers averse to trekking out themselves for dinner.

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But wait — a quick check-in with some pizza shop owners suggests the gains being made on delivery orders are being entirely lost to falling business from walk-in customers.

“We’re not doing that well. People don’t want to go outside,” Alda Morais, shop manager for a Pizzaiolo location in Toronto’s downtown, said. “We’re higher on deliveries than we’re used to but our walk-ins have been cut down to nothing.”

Canadian Tire

A Canadian Tire store houses pretty much any winter-related item you can conceive of — including salt*. (*while supplies last) (Canadian Press). Canadian Press

Canadian Tire was made for winters like this – indeed, has built its entire business proposition on arming Canadians with all manner of goods and services designed to get them through the winter.

Thick-tread tires, windshield washer fluid, boots, ice scrapers – and yes SALT (where available) – are items the retailer has made its name on selling. This winter, more than others in recent memory, has many recalling trips for de-icer to get a frozen lock opened or new shovel.

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It has turned out to be a very lucrative winter for those who cut, trim and otherwise manage trees and shrubs for a living, with countless trees of every size imaginable overcome with ice and downed across wide swaths of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

“We’re usually hardly working at all. The winter time is a relaxing time,” Diana Begley at Derek’s Tree Service Inc. in Meadowvale, Ont. said Monday (Derek, who was out on a call, was unavailable).

“But since the first ice storm, we’ve received about 400 calls,” Begley said. “They’ve been working non-stop including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, just trying to keep on top of the broken trees – just taking care of the emergencies.

“They’re still going to have to go back out and fix the trees that will have to be removed.”

Removing downed trees became a year-round job this year for arborists across Eastern Canada. (The Canadian Press). Canadian Press

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