Business heats up for some as cold weather slams U.S.

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    Extreme cold means big business for some companies

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Extreme cold means big business for some companies 01:18

Story highlights

  • Wind chills in the upper Midwest will drop as low as 40 degrees below zero
  • Even much of the South will be frozen by Wednesday morning
  • A food delivery service doubles its business when the weather gets this bad

(CNN)Ridiculously cold weather is gripping much of the country, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

In Chicago, the high temperature Wednesday will be 1 degree Fahrenheit. Yes, that's the high.
And the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa will endure wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero over the next two days.
    Even much of the South will be in a deep freeze by Wednesday morning. And folks from Ohio to Maryland can expect 3 to 7 inches of snow Tuesday. As of 12:30 p.m., 150 flights -- most heading to the East Coast -- were canceled at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, and passengers at Chicago Midway International Airport were experiencing 20-minute delays and a dozen cancellations, transportation officials said.
    But not everyone is suffering. In fact, the brutal weather can be a financial boon.
    Here's a look at some of the businesses whose sales grow hot when the days get cold:
    Hardware and grocery stores
    Some Iowa residents are stocking up on supplies, boosting the bottom lines of area hardware and grocery stores.
    "They're preparing and planning ahead, which is really good so they don't have to drive out in the streets," Mark Hayman, owner of Hayman's West Side Ace Hardware, told CNN affiliate KWQC.
    He said that sales of snow shovels and salt have doubled and that his staff is ready for the week.
    "We have a lot of shovels and salt that we keep in stock year-round," Hayman told the affiliate. "We store them in the warehouse and make sure we don't run out."
    North Scott Foods, in Eldridge, is similarly stocked up and ready.
    A delivery truck that normally arrives Tuesday came earlier this week, ahead of the expected drop in temperature.
    "They wanted to make sure the roads were good. We told them, 'good, come a day early; we'll need it,' " assistant manager Jim Speirs told KWQC.
    Food deliveries
    For those who don't stock up in time, never fear.
    Another type of business that sees its phones ring off the hook when the temperature drops is those specializing in deliveries.
    Who wants to go out on a cold day and brave the roads when there are others willing to deliver what you need?
    Malisha Spencer, manager at Indy All Night, which offers food delivery in Indianapolis nearly 24 hours a day, says business nearly doubles when a heavy cold front comes through.
    Daytime food delivery orders increase the most, she said.
    "Most of our deliveries usually come at night, but when it gets colder, we get them all throughout the day," Spencer said.
    Salt sellers
    Salt: It's not just for your grandma's bland casserole. Salt for highway deicing makes up 41% of total salt sales in the U.S.
    So you can imagine that salt sellers aren't as bummed out about the cold as regular Joes.
    During the snowstorms last year, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. told The Wall Street Journal that the demand for deicing salt was "simply unprecedented in recent memory."
    Auto repair shops
    Icy roads mean a big boost in business for auto repair shops. The cold makes cars more susceptible to damage.
    For example, a bumper that bends or dents in the summer can shatter in the winter, Brad Hamilton, manager of the Collision Center of Dayton, told CNN affiliate WDTN during last year's cold spell.
    Plumbers
    There are lots of things homeowners can do to help avoid frozen pipes when temperatures drop.
    Michael Dunn, owner of M.T. Dunn Plumbing -- which services the Portland, Oregon, area -- lists some tips on his website.
    You can leave water dripping slowly from faucets, for example. Or set your home's thermostat above 55 degrees.
    But even the best-laid plans can be no match for Mother Nature, which is where plumbers such as Dunn can step in.
    "It rarely gets that cold here, but when it does, it gets very hectic," he said.
    During a particularly bitter cold snap last year, Dunn remembers getting 227 calls in one night.
    "It was a record," he said. "It filled up my mailbox."
    Winter gear makers
    The Original Muck Boot Company in Rhode Island counts on the fall and winter for 70% of its sales. And it's not the only one.
    Brooklyn-based Pawz, which makes bright-colored rubber boots for dogs, also see sales peak in the winter.
    "It's seems odd to say this, but the nasty, cold, slushy weather is core to our business. We welcome it," Sean O'Brien, global director of retail footwear, told CNN Money.