MUNSTER | Snow. Kids love to play in it. Commuters hate to drive in it.

It been sparse in Northwest Indiana the past two winters, a source of relief for stressed commuters and chagrin for local merchants dependent on seasonal snow-related sales and services.

Local merchants say the threat of a second significant Northwest Indiana snow storm Tuesday has somewhat helped slumped snow blower, salt, shovel, and de-icer sales.

Dave Reinbold, sales manager for Terpstra’s Sales and Service in Griffith, said he sold four snow throwers Monday. However, Reinbold said, sales the past two winters have definitely been sluggish.

“We are in a seasonal business,” Reinbold said. “One season affects the next because you don’t’ have the cash flow without the snow. And in the spring when your landscaping and lawn cutting guys come in they don’t have the cash to buy for that season until two to three months in. It’s a domino effect. The cash flow has not been there this winter. Those people who live by lawns and snow are hurting.”

The large inventory of Toro snow blowers at Terpstra’s, which Reinbold estimates at more than 100, is good news for consumers wanting deals, Reinbold said.

At Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware in Munster, Store Manager Al Webb said sales of snow-related items have been down until the latest storm was predicted for Tuesday.

“Last year when the weather bureau was predicting a major snow fall, we couldn’t keep them in stock.” Webb said. “A lot of people bought them last year and we are hearing comments that they have hardly used them. This snow storm should help us.”

Webb said sales began to pick up over the weekend. He said Bock’s has sold a few snow blowers since then. Snow shovels, salt, deicer and bird seed are selling well.

“We are watching our inventory very closely,” Webb said.

Webb said the Munster, Lansing and Dyer Ace Hardware stores, all owned by the Grill brothers, are working together to ensure they don’t run out or have an over-abundant supply.

“Bird seed is a very good seller when there is a snow fall because birds can’t forge as much,” Webb said.

Nathan Niemeyer, owner of Niemeyer’s Landscape Supply in Crown Point, said he expect salt sales to be busy Wednesday when the snow stops and has been cleared.

“Two below average snow fall winters have created a financial strain on us and other companies in our field,” Niemeyer said. “February and so far the first week of March business has been good. Before that it was pretty much non-existent.”

Niemeyer said people in the business prefer two- or three-inch accumulations for getting snow removed efficiently in a timely manner and for putting salt down.

It is easier on the equipment, man power and more profitable, Niemeyer said.