Some like it hot: Heat brings customers to some businesses
By Emily McFarlan firstname.lastname@example.org July 23, 2012 10:26PM
Heidi Koller, 5, enjoys a treat at Kimmer's Ice Cream in St. Charles on Friday July 20, 2012. | Katherine Peters~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 30, 2012 10:25AM
ST. CHARLES — Mary Alice Roach, 14, of Wayne and Madeline Mortensen, 17, of St. Charles sat under a pink chandelier Friday afternoon in Kimmer’s Ice Cream, each with an ice cream cone in hand.
The incoming freshman and current student were matched this summer, part of St. Charles East High School’s peer leadership program. They’d spent the day mini golfing, “getting comfortable with high school and making a smooth transition,” Madeline said.
“It was really hot so we thought, ‘Let’s get ice cream,’” Mary Alice said.
Kimmer’s definitely has seen an increase in business this year, according to owner Kimberly Elam.
When the temperatures first hit unusual highs this spring, Elam said, she was ordering ingredients “as if it was June.” And, on a busy day this summer, the shop can go through two or three tubs of caramel sea salt ice cream, its most popular.
The hot, dry weather has had “a significant impact” on the area, according to Dan Rich, public works supervisor in Elgin.
And that impact has been “both positive and negative,” Rich said.
But there is a silver lining in that rainless cloud for some area businesses, such as ice cream shops, cooling service providers and other organizations whose construction projects are ahead of schedule.
Temperatures during the summer heat wave have been 10 to 15 degrees above normal from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service.
And the weather service, which has characterized conditions as a drought, has measured the precipitation in the past month at Tyler Creek in Elgin at 2.92 inches. The average rainfall in Elgin is 3.8 inches in July and 3.98 in June, according to The Weather Channel.
That’s to blame in a grass fire that turned two acres of backyard into blackened earth last week in Bartlett. And for canceling the farmer’s market in South Elgin earlier this month when the farmer who ran its produce stand no longer was able to make it.
It’s set the stage with low water levels and high temperatures for fish kills in bodies of water across the state, from small ponds to large lakes, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Fox River Study Group already has noted some kills in the river near Aurora.
And for a bleak harvest for area farmers: More than half of corn crops — 51 percent — are listed in poor or very poor condition, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture Weather and Crop Report.
It’s also taxed Elgin’s maintenance staff, trying to keep up with watering the city’s plants, flowers and turf, Rich said. That fatigue will carry on “well into the fall and maybe through next spring,” he said.
But, the public works supervisor said, “On the plus side, the lack of rain has allowed the larger projects such as street rehabilitation and neighborhood resurfacing to be completed either on time or slightly ahead of schedule.”
That’s true in School District U46, too, according to Jeff King, its chief operations officer.
The Elgin school district has six roofing and parking lot projects planned this summer, King said. Usually, with rain delays, those projects run up to the first week of school, he said. This summer, though, they are a week or two ahead of schedule.
Also, he said, “It cuts down on the mowing costs. We aren’t having to mow. That’s the only other positive thing I can think of.”
Cindy Skrukrud is quick to point out what the drought “is doing to the crops is a big detriment.” But, the Fox River Study Group chair said the low water in the river also has given the group an opportunity it’s waited years for.
“We’ve been trying for the last five years to collect some water quality info from the Fox River in low flow. People probably forget so soon with the drought we’re having this year we’ve had relatively wet years since 2005,” Skrukrud said.
Crews from Aurora-based Deuchler Environmental and Illinois State Water Survey collected water samples three times a day over 72 hours in late June, from the Stratton Dam near McHenry to Yorkville, she said. They are monitoring the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, of bacteria and nitrogen and phosphorous, she said.
They’ve been collecting storm event data the past two years, she said, because “we needed to be able to measure pollutant levels when there’s a lot of runoff. But we also need to measure it when there’s low flow.”
With that information, the Fox River Study Group will be able to evaluate different management options to see what combination of things can be done to improve the health of the river, according to Skrukrud.
The heat has been a boon for Amy Home Services, a full-service heating, cooling and plumbing company based in Carpentersville. Amy serves homes in most of northern Illinois.
It shouldn’t be, though, according to Jason Glover, CEO and owner. Air-conditioning units should be maintained on a yearly basis, “just like owning a car,” Glover said.
“When that’s not done, those are the people who find their air-conditioning not working in the greatest time of need,” he said.
Amy’s business this year, compared to last year, has at least tripled, according to the CEO. That’s mostly been calls to fix broken-down air-conditioning units, he said.
“When you get the high humidity here in the Midwest, it’s a must-have,” Glover said.
Elam started Kimmer’s Ice Cream at 1 W. Illinois St., formerly Gramp’s Ice Cream, not long after graduating in 2010 from the University of Iowa, then from a five-day Ice Cream University in New Jersey.
Her first job had been at the Baskin Robbins in Batavia, now Batavia Creamery, and she did stints at Coldstone and other family-owned businesses in college, Elam said. All her projects in her entrepreneurship classes in college focused on ice cream, she said.
“My professors always said, ‘Do what you love,’ and — silly me — I love ice cream,” she said.
The ice cream at Kimmer’s includes more than 75 flavors — about 20 at a time, Elam said. Right now, that includes Aztec Hot Chocolate with cayenne and cinnamon; peanut butter and jelly, a flavor suggested by a customer; and Parent Trap, featuring chunks of cookie and swirls of peanut butter.
“It’s perfect,” Mary Alice said Friday of her Parent Trap cone.
“It’s like they took magic and beauty and flavor and put it into one ice cream. It’s like, ‘Thank you!’”
And that’s the idea behind an ice cream shop like Kimmer’s, decked in pink and sparkles, especially in the middle of a hot, bleak summer like this year’s, Elam said: “Just to try to keep people’s spirits up and give them a nice, cool treat.”
Staff writer Mike Danahey
contributed to this report.