Winter storm blankets region
By JENNIFER LAWSON
Saturday, December 29,2012
Charlie Harris IV and his sister Katlynn, of Charlie’s Lawn Care, shovel snow from the walkways at the Jane Lopoten School of Dance in Lansdale on Saturday. December 28,2012. Photo by Mark C Psoras\The Reporter
LANSDALE — When 13-year-old Charlie Harris hears of a snow forecast, his first thought is, “get ready.”
For the past two years, he’s done snow removal in winter and yard work in the warmer months under the name Charlie’s Lawn Care, and even before the white stuff starts to pile up on the ground, he springs into action.
Click here for a photo gallery of the snowfall from around the area.
“I think, ‘Do I have enough salt? Do I have enough gas?’” Charlie said Saturday afternoon.
“Last night I went to Lowe’s and got 200 pounds of salt and five-and-a-half gallons of gas for the snowblower,” he said. “I never leave the house without at least 100 pounds of salt.”
Before Saturday’s snowfall, the budding entrepreneur had lined up numerous snow removal jobs in Lansdale and North Wales in anticipation of the two to four inches expected in the area.
By Saturday afternoon, Lansdale Borough and Hatfield and Montgomery townships had declared snow emergencies, meaning that cars shouldn’t be parked on the streets to allow crews to clear the snow.
Montgomery County declared a Code Blue emergency Friday night due to nighttime wind chill factors of 20 degrees or below.
Trinity Lutheran Church at 1000 W. Main St. in Lansdale opened its Code Blue shelter for the homeless, and three men had stayed overnight Friday.
“It’s a place where they can come that’s warm and provides a meal and a comfortable place where they can be safe for a night,” said Jane Jorgensen, director of communications for the church.
Throughout the area, police departments responded to a multitude of minor vehicle crashes due to icy conditions, but as of Saturday evening, none involved injuries.
At about 1 p.m., Saturday, even though the snow was still falling, Charlie set out to work, first shoveling and salting his family’s steps and sidewalk.
This is how he got started — he began shoveling the sidewalk when he was about 11, then through word of mouth, he gained some clients. First some relatives, then family friends, and then members of the public as well as businesses started to hire him.
Charlie, who is in 7th grade at Penndale and belongs to Boy Scout Troop 399, gets help from his mother, Michele, dad Charles and sister Katlynn, 16. Even their pitbull mix, Dakota, gets involved sometimes.
“She’s my snow rescue dog,” he said, explaining that when the snow is really deep, “she runs through it and pushes it down for me to make it easier.”
After he clears the snow from his family’s property, Charlie, Charles and Katlynn bring their shovels and lawn seeder that doubles as a salter to the Jane Lopoten School of Dance at 526 N. Broad St., around the corner from his house.
Without speaking, they get to work quickly, each taking a separate section of the sidewalk and steps.
Within minutes, they’re finished and ready to hit the road for his North Wales clients. As the day progressed, he received several more calls.
Charlie’s game plan is to hit all of this clients early to remove the first inch or so, then he will go back to remove the remaining snow after the flakes stop falling.
He does extra stuff like clearing snow from clients’ cars free of charge, and he also gives discounts to seniors.
Asked what he enjoys most about his work, he doesn’t hesitate.
“The money,” he said.
He can pull in as much as $400 in a month or so, which makes his parents happy.
“Hey, I don’t have to pay for things, he pays for his own stuff,” said Michele Harris, who co-owns Harris Investigations, a private investigation and process serving business with her husband.
Snow removal runs from $10 to $40 — he charges by the inch. He is serious about accuracy and will measure in several places, including his family’s property and at Elm Terrace Gardens across the street. Lawn care ranges from $15 to $35. He also does odd jobs like cleaning out basements and walking dogs.
Charlie used his earnings from last year to go on a fishing charter, he said. He’s also bought yard work and snow removal supplies and equipment, and he pays for his website, www.charlieslawncare.net. He also paid for the neon yellow shirts he wears when he’s out on a job, which feature his logo, consisting of a stick figure pushing a mower and the tagline, “You grow it, we mow it.”
Even at his young age, Charlie has already encountered corporate sabotage of sorts — a few “frenemies” took his slogan and logo and created fliers with their names on them, and went to Charlie’s clients and offered to charge less for the same work.
“They had a lawn mower, broom and weed wacker, and they walked around and knocked on doors trying to get jobs,” Michele Harris said. “People started calling and emailing me saying they saw the fliers and they wanted to know if these were Charlie’s friends. They were just jealous of him.”
As far as his future, Charlie said he’d like to be a cop or a chef, but he could always continue to do lawn care and snow removal on the side.
“The way I look at it,” he said, “I’ll never have trouble paying my bills.”
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