Q&A with Ken Almstead, CEO of Almstead Tree and Shrub Care Co

Some Westchester businesses rake in cash along with the leaves.

Bad weather can be good for some businesses.

We spoke with arborist Ken Almstead, CEO of New Rochelle-based Almstead Tree and Shrub Care Co (which has “branch” offices in Hawthorne; Stamford, Connecticut; and North Haledon, New Jersey), about how the winter has affected revenue at his company.

Q: Have the storms so far generated a lot of business for you?
A: They have, especially the Halloween snow and ice storm. With so many broken branches creating hazardous situations, we worked a lot of overtime hours.

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Q: What about Hurricane Irene?
A: Irene caused a lot of flood damage, but the Halloween snowstorm was much more devastating. And over the next few months, we’ll continue to do restoration work because of the remnants of that storm.

Q: What are winters typically like for you?
A: Usually, we’re slower through March. It’s an opportune time for pruning and removal, and applying antidessicants to protect trees and shrubs from winter injuries. We do more commercial-oriented work, such as businesses like universities, schools, and golf courses are closed during winter. That ice and snowstorm set us back one or two months in some areas.

Q: With the weather so unpredictable, how can you budget for it?
A: You can’t. Last winter, we had four feet of snow on the ground that never seemed to leave and we couldn’t do our usual maintenance work at all until March.

Q: Has the weak economy hurt you?
A: We’ve certainly felt it. In 2008 and ’09, our revenue dropped about ten percent. But in 2010, we more than made up for it, largely due to a heavy snowstorm in January, a destructive windstorm in March, and a July hurricane.

Q: And last year?
A: Fortunately, 2011 has been our highest gross-revenue year ever.

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Q: Are homeowners who put off having work done because of money issues starting to come back?
A: A couple of things are going on. Some homeowners do have a bit more financial stability. But with so much abnormal weather the last few years, we’ve seen a heightened response in people wanting to address property maintenance and hazard issues, if they can afford it.

Q: What is your outlook for the spring and the year ahead?
A: We’re optimistic.

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