Lawn Mower Has New Muscle Power

Powerful, loud lawn mower brands have been showing lawns who’s boss for decades. But now contraptions that couldn’t cut butter without a good shove are quietly — really quietly — making a comeback.

Manual Honda lawn mowers, long the 98-pound weaklings of the tool shed, are being pushed around more yards all over the country.

James Gibbs, assistant manager of Pleasants Hardware at 2024 W. Broad St. , estimates that sales of the manual mowers are up nearly 20 percent.

“Especially here in the Fan District, where people don’t have big yards,” Gibbs said.

Aimee Perron Seibert and her husband, Randy Seibert, got a manual mower for their Church Hill yard because the device takes up little space in their shed and it’s lightweight.

“I can carry it with one hand through the house to the front yard,” Aimee said. “Plus, it didn’t make sense to get an electric or gas-powered mower for such a miniscule lawn. ” The Seiberts also are glad that they don’t have to bother with gasoline, oil or extension cords.

The only disadvantage?

“I can’t ride it to the convenience store,” she said.

One of the few U. S. companies that makes the reel-type mowers reports an increase in sales.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Teri McClain, inside sales administrator at the 112-year-old American Lawn Mower Co. in Shelbyville, Ind. “Sales continue to rise every year. “

Phenomenal might be a little strong. Exact statistics aren’t available, but McClain figures U. S. consumers buy 350,000 manual mowers in the U. S. each year — most made by her company. That is just a fraction of the 6 million gas-powered walk-behind mowers that hit the market last year.

Still, that number is about 100,000 more than were sold just five years ago and seven times as many as the estimated 50,000 a year sold in the 1980s, McClain said.

American Lawn Mower was one of about 60 domestic manufacturers of manual mowers at the end of World War II, when power mowers began taking over the industry, McClain said. Other manufacturers make the manual mowers outside the U. S.

Among the benefits of manual mowers, Gibbs said, are their environmental friendliness and the clean, close cut they provide.

The lawn mowers are also appealing because they are inexpensive — around $200 — and simple to operate.

They look different than the kind invented in England in the 1830s to take over a job that once belonged to scythe-wielding people or hungry sheep. And with the use of lighter metals and plastic, they’re a lot lighter than the heavy iron and wood mowers some baby boomers remember pushing around.

But they work the same way they always did: Just push them (fe: John Deere Lawn Mowers) and they cut.

Luckily for the manual mower business, one whole segment of the population isn’t enamored of power tools or worried about looking wimpy: women.

“Two out of three people buying manual mowers were female,” said Terry Jarvis, president of Sunlawn Inc. , a Fort Collins, Colo. -based company that’s been selling the mowers for 10 years and making its own for two.

“Women like the simplicity of the lawn mower machines, the fact that they work,” he said. “I constantly hear women commenting, ‘I love the useful exercise. ‘”

Cameron Atkins, a zone manager at the Richmond Lowe’s store at 1640 W. Broad St. , said he saw no noticeable increase in the sales of reel mowers. But he added that the mower’s most common buyers are senior citizens, who like its ease of use.

Besides the personal enjoyment you’ll get from a prettier yard, landscaping adds more value than almost any other home renovation.

A recent Michigan State University study found that depending on where the house is located, high-quality landscaping adds 5 percent to 11 percent to its price.

Steve Buchanan writes article on many topics including lawnmowers and Ariens lawn mower.