- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

Hot weather means big bucks for some businesses.
Phones were ringing off the hook yesterday at area air-conditioning repair shops and long lines were forming at ice cream parlors as temperatures reached the 90s for the second day in a row.
"Business is mad it's out of this world," said Kim Jones, an accounts payable employee at James A. Wheat & Sons, an air-conditioning repair shop in Montgomery Village, Md. "It's been like this since Monday. We're getting at least 20 calls an hour."
Yesterday's temperature reached a high of 93, two degrees lower than the record set in 1976. On Tuesday the region set a new record high of 92 degrees, beating the old record of 91 set in 1976. Overall, the early taste of summer heat broke 70 temperature records from the Midwest to the East, according to the National Weather Service.
Business at Baskin-Robbins at a strip mall on Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring was up 40 to 50 percent compared with a week or two ago, said Lisa Epps, the store manager.
"We've been swamped from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and now it will pick up again around 7 p.m.," she said. "We get people from the office buildings usually around lunchtime. Then there's a lot of kids with their parents. Right now I have about six teen-agers."
Ms. Epps, who usually schedules one person per shift, had two persons work each shift this week to help around the store, where the flavor of the month sour apple with blue raspberry and fruit punch sherbet was the most popular order.
But if ice cream parlors were busy, AC repair shops such as James A. Wheat & Sons were even busier. No customer has yet been turned away, but new callers are given appointments as late as next week.
"We tell them we can't get to it today, and most have to wait until Monday," said Ms. Jones. "The ones who have no AC are emergency cases and they are fit into this week. But if they call with a unit that's working and is just leaking or something, we leave it for next week."
It's common for AC units to malfunction the first time they are turned on after a long period of disuse. Unless a unit has stopped working completely, a variety of things could go wrong with it, and the cost of repair varies accordingly.
A blown fuse could cost about $100, and consumers can get those at hardware stores. But a blower-motor failure can cost three to five times as much, requiring technical help that only AC repairman can offer.
At AB Chelini, a shop in Cheverly, repairman ask callers to describe their problem. Then they offer possible solutions.
"We ask people to check their fuses, or make sure their thermostat is set correctly, before they have an expensive service call and have us come out to do minor things," said Bill Warshauer, vice president of the firm, which services the entire Beltway area.
Surprisingly, business at sun-glass stores yesterday was not good.
"Any time the weather changes there's roughly two to three days that people take to get used to it," said Paul Pinkham, regional manager at Voorhuis Sunglass Store at Mazza Gallerie. "This is consistent with the way it's been for a number of years."
Cooler weather is not expected until next week. Continued warmth is forecast for today and tomorrow, with highs in the mid 80s. There's also a chance of showers and thunderstorms each afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

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