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Expressway: The riddle of the disappearing snow shovels

Sag Harbor Village Public Works employees Jason Prieston,

Sag Harbor Village Public Works employees Jason Prieston, left, and Peter Landi, shovel the sidewalk in front of the Sag Harbor Fire Department on Main Street in Sag Harbor during the snow storm. (Jan. 2, 2014) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Snow is here again. This week's storm is the fourth on Long Island since mid-December.

Forecasts of each storm inspire runs on milk, bread, batteries, rock salt -- and snow shovels.

That last one puzzles me. Flocks of people rush out to buy shovels. Stores are quickly stripped clean of them. New supplies have to be rushed in.

So what happens to all the old snow shovels? I just don't get it.

I can understand the need for new milk and bread and batteries. And rock salt runs out, too.

But shovels? While I'm sure cheaply made shovels break, for the most part snow shovels are reasonably sturdy. I still have the same two snow shovels I bought when I moved into my house 41 years ago. Granted, they are a bit tired, but they get months to rest each year in the garage, so they are ready to go. Ditto the shovels of most of my neighbors.

And it's not like you see ads for "new and improved snow shovels" that make last year's version obsolete and cause you to lust after the latest models.

Let's face it: The basic snow shovel hasn't changed much since snow was first discovered: hand grip (smooth or textured), staff (straight or slightly curved), blade (aluminum or plastic). Not much room for innovation. So where do they go?

Ponder that question though you may, I doubt you will be any better at figuring it out than I have been.

But given this annual crisis, I can envision at least two business opportunities for entrepreneurs. The first service is akin to the one offered by people who help search for lost pets -- snow-shovel hunters. I can see it now, signs on telephone poles all around town: "Missing. One Ames True Temper Arctic Blast snow shovel. Family devastated (and buried in snow). If found, please call..."

The second involves people willing to camp out in tents in front of Home Depot or Lowes to buy up snow shovels as soon as the first hint of snow is in the air, and offer them for resale at a markup, the way ticket resellers do.

Actually, this might be the retirement opportunity I've been searching for. You'll recognize me. When the forecast is for snow, I'll be the geezer freezing outside Home Depot with the "Missing: snow shovel" posters stuck on my tent -- and snow shovels for sale sticking out of my parka.

Reader Bill Ciesla lives in Northport.