Having the right equipment matters to David Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Yardworks, essentially a one-man operation in Bottineau, a town of about 2,000 in South Dakota and some 10 miles south of the Canadian border. Three or four bad storms slammed Battineau in the winter of 2016. The worst was one that hit on March 11. That Sunday night, snow, driven by winds of 50 to 60 mph, began to fall and didn’t let up for three days. “All day and all night, it never quit,” says Bartlett. “We got nine inches of snow and drifts about 15 feet high.” That storm stood out in a season of unexpectedly heavy snowfall, prompting Bartlett to buy a Ventrac so he could clear sidewalks around Bottineau.
What made the storm so bad is “it never let up and all the roads were basically impassable,” he says. “I live about 15 miles out of town so I had to drive down in the blizzard and I was stuck in a friend’s home for about four days.”
The area normally gets 30 inches of snow a season; in 2016, it was closer to 100 inches, Bartlett says. During that mid-March storm, the ride to his storage facility from his home took about an hour-and-a-half. “You could go until you felt like you were falling off one side of the road, so you pull back on and you just keep going and you watch the white line,” he says, evoking that tense experience.
Bartlett spent those trying days clearing driveways — 95 percent of his customers are residential, in an area in which the main industries are oil and farming — all the way up to the doorways; clearing the drifts around his own facility was quite a chore, he says, noting he worked about 20 hours during those three days. He also did a lot of shoveling and deck clearing, and that winter, when things got particularly bad, he bought a Ventrac, a small, all-wheel-drive enclosed snow removal tractor ideal for sidewalk clearance. The Ventrac is one of four pieces of snow removal equipment Bartlett Yardworks has amassed.
Bartlett aims to grow Bartlett Yardworks, the company he and his three brothers started in 2007 and established as a business seven years later.