Twin Cities driver for on-demand plowing service tells all
Steve Camp likes winter. Falling temperatures represent ice fishing, snowmobiling and money in his pocket.
“I love this,” said Camp on Friday, driving his 2019 GMC Denali plow truck south through St. Paul into Highland Park for what will be his 62nd driveway-clearing operation of the week.
Camp, who has owned SC Creative Landscaping in Maple Grove for 25 years, signed up in 2019 for a side gig with PlowzAndMowz.com, a New York-based, on-demand property management service that describes itself as the Uber of snow plowing, lawn care and other home upkeep. The app indicates that in less than four years, he’s plowed 668 driveways and counting.
He believes it.
The St. Paul portion of his Friday morning begins with a hunt for diesel gas, which he finds surprisingly hard to locate in the city. Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, is little help identifying which gas stations carry it, and three in a row do not. At a fourth stop, the diesel comes out in a slow trickle. Most other gas stations won’t pick up the phone.
“Gas is the biggest expense,” said Camp, who sometimes gets 14 miles to the gallon. “There’s breakdowns, repairs, but gas usually takes over.”
Still, his 2019 truck has treated him well so far. “I’m too old for breakdowns,” quipped Camp. “You spend so much time in them, it’s nice to have something durable and reliable.”
The multi-phase winter storm that blew through the Twin Cities Tuesday through Thursday brought with it more than a foot of snow in St. Paul, Minneapolis and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and as many as 20 inches in Apple Valley. Overall, it wasn’t as severe as most forecasts predicted, and to Camp’s delight, the snow was much lighter, fluffier and easier to clear than the heavy deluge that landed around Christmas.
No such challenges faced Camp on Friday. His first stop in St. Paul is a home on Hampshire Avenue where snow drifts have piled some heaps into higher than waist-high mounds.
The plowing itself is little short of anti-climatic, a quick forward and reverse, executed with almost seesaw-like repetition until the driveway snow has been shoved onto the ample yard. “Push snow left side,” reads the special instructions on his app.
A few steps remain. Camp gets out of his vehicle to shovel the walk, an add-on service available, and he later drives up and down the driveway with his truck shovel near to the ground, eliminating the last layer of snowfall. Then it’s time to take photos and upload them, video evidence that the work is done.
Unless it’s around Christmastime, he may never meet the client. Christmas sometimes means a plate of cookies.
Which city handled the snowstorm better — St. Paul or Minneapolis?
Now it’s time to answer a timeless question — which city handles municipal snow plowing better, St. Paul or Minneapolis?
In general, he’d have to say St. Paul.
“I’d say St. Paul pulled off the storm better this time. They got it together. Minneapolis, not so good,” Camp said. “Minneapolis is pretty rough down there. … They’re stuck.”
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Wills Mahoney, an information technology professional who founded PlowzAndMowz.com in 2014 in Syracuse, New York, said the Twin Cities has grown to be the largest of his 65 markets, which is saying a lot. His native Syracuse, after all, prides itself on competing with Buffalo, New York, for heavy snowfalls.
“Right now we have 400 trucks active in the Minneapolis area, in a little bit higher than 40-mile radius,” Mahoney said. “It’s a strong market for us. We’ve just seen incredible growth.”
Prices for the on-demand service vary with location, the type and size of the project, how quickly it needs to be done and add-ons like shoveling and salting, but plowing a typical Twin Cities driveway of any length will likely average $90. Additional “white glove” treatment involves cleaning off a car entirely, not every plow driver’s favored activity, but still a popular sell with the disabled.
For a few hours Wednesday night, bookings in the Twin Cities rolled in every seven seconds, Mahoney said. On Thursday morning, he said, they landed even faster.
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