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As Winter Arrives, Heaters Become a Survival Tool for Businesses

December 1, 2020 Annie Milewski
“I think it’s going to be a very difficult winter, and a lot more restaurants will close,” said Andrew Moger, the chief executive of BCD, a restaurant consulting group whose clients have included Westville, Dinosaur Bar-b-que and Benihana. The surge in demand has caught some stores flat-footed. Major hardware retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot are frequently out of stock, say shoppers who have combed through aisles. “Like all retailers, we have seen high demand for many items, and our merchants and supply chain teams have been working to replenish what they can,” a Home Depot spokeswoman said. Many of...

“I think it’s going to be a very difficult winter, and a lot more restaurants will close,” said Andrew Moger, the chief executive of BCD, a restaurant consulting group whose clients have included Westville, Dinosaur Bar-b-que and Benihana.

The surge in demand has caught some stores flat-footed. Major hardware retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot are frequently out of stock, say shoppers who have combed through aisles.

“Like all retailers, we have seen high demand for many items, and our merchants and supply chain teams have been working to replenish what they can,” a Home Depot spokeswoman said.

Many of the outdoor heaters sold in the United States are made in China, which is struggling to keep up with the heightened interest. Chinese factories used to take two months to fill Radtec’s orders, and they now take three, Mr. Minton said.

Yet prices for heaters, which come in propane, natural gas or electric versions, don’t yet seem to be climbing, possibly because the huge volume of business allows manufacturers to keep their costs down, analysts say….

Offices, too, are trying to make their outdoor spaces cozier. At Industry City, a sprawling office, retail and industrial complex on the Brooklyn waterfront, its owners Jamestown and Belvedere Capital Real Estate Partners have spent $1 million on heaters and tents, purchased this summer, to encourage tenants to socialize in the alleys between the development’s repurposed brick buildings. About 70 heaters are now installed, including an electric version in an existing yurt, said Kathe Chase, Industry City’s director of leasing.

Of the 8,500 employees who worked in the complex before the pandemic, 50 percent still regularly show up for work, Ms. Chase said. At the same time, 500,000 square feet, or 12 percent of the complex, have leased since March, she added.

“Nobody has a crystal ball about what will happen,” Ms. Chase said. “But this is not just a Covid fix. We think people will live differently after this.”

But not every business can heat outdoor spaces, and some are turning to rudimentary alternatives.

Tishman Speyer, a national office landlord, is not permitted to place heaters on some high-floor terraces of its Rockefeller Center, over concerns that wind could send them flying. Portable heaters also can’t be positioned too close to walls, said Thais Galli, a Tishman managing director.

But many of the employees who do come into the office — about 15 percent of pre-pandemic totals — prefer to hold meetings on the terraces, so wind-blocking options, like Plexiglass screens, rows of evergreens and plastic igloos, are now under consideration, Ms. Galli said.

At One Federal Street, a Tishman high-rise in Boston, the landlord hands out complimentary single-use fleece blankets and wool hats for those who want to grab a breath of fresh air on the lawn-lined ninth-floor terrace, where most heaters are also verboten.

“It’s a real work in progress,” Ms. Galli said.

*This is an excerpt from the original New York Times story published on November 27, 2020; to read the full article, click here.

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