2005-09-29 / Front Page

Jamestown merchants report strong summer

By Sam Bari

The Tropi Grille on Narragansett Ave. The Tropi Grille on Narragansett Ave. July and August proved to be heaven-sent. The weather was perfect, with sunny days and cool nights. Overall, Jamestown merchants fared well. As for the future, opinions vary, but cautious optimism appears to prevail.

Here are a few words from the proprietors.

Chuck Masso – owner of one of Jamestown’s favorite restaurants, Chopmist Charlies: “The summer got off to a slow start, but the good weather in July and August helped a lot. I think the state of the general economy and price of fuel has curbed spending a bit. We were off a little from last year, but I have no complaints. Business has been steady.

Trish Masso – Chuck’s wife, owner of the popular Tricia’s Tropical Grill: “July and August brought good weather and good business. We did better than last year. I’m very pleased. Unfortunately, fuel will eventually affect the price of everything, but we’re going to do our best to hold our prices in the off-season. In the long haul, however, I’m afraid everyone will have to make adjustments. We have to pay for the rising costs of goods somehow.”

Page Dickinson of Page’s Liquors: “It’s been a very good year. The fuel prices haven’t affected us too much, and the fabulous weather put the island in a festive mood. I think people are staying close to home with the rising fuel costs and that’s very good for us. The future looks good, so I see no reason not to be optimistic. This country has endured much bigger problems than those we’re experiencing now. I have faith that we’ll come out on top. We always do.”

Frank LaPere of Grapes & Gourmet, a deli, liquor and fine wine store: “We had a great summer. Great w e a t h e r , good business, and I think we have a bright future. We weren’t effected enough by rising fuel prices to be concerned.”

Rena Tyson — owner of R&R Gallery, specialty gifts and hard to find artifacts: “We did as well as last year. We depend on the local economy more than tourists. Business has been good year round. We expanded our children’s department more for grandparents than kids. They love to buy for the children. I’m not worried about the economy. We’ve survived price rises in fuel before. We’ll survive it again. We understand the needs of our customers. That’s more important than worrying about the economy.”

Holly Howard — part owner of the Secret Garden, flowers, gifts, and Mother Nature dressed in her Sunday best: “Good summer. At least as good as last year, probably better. We’re starting to see surcharges for materials because of the fuel costs, but it’s a little too early to get all excited. I think it’s a temporary situation. We haven’t raised the prices of mums and fall plants. They are the same as last year. I’m staying optimistic about the future. There’s always something affecting the economy. We believe in looking on the bright side.”

Phyllis Bedard — proprietor of Trattoria Syimpatico, fine Italian fare, ambience, and good jazz: “We had a fantastic summer. So many delightful people came in to see us. And we had the privilege of making many wonderful new friends from both on and off the island. Every year it gets better, and with the unbelievable weather, this year was no exception. Of course, the local community gives us so much support. And Kevin, our talented chef works so hard to keep the menu interesting and affordable. The rising costs of deliveries and supplies resulting from the increases in fuel prices and these awful storms have affected everyone. We are doing everything we can to not reflect those increases to our customers. We’ve expanded the cafĂ© menu with reasonably priced, delicious offerings. I think it will come back to us with even more local support. People are more inclined to stay on the island and not venture too far during these t r y i n g times. And we want to r e w a r d them for their undying loyalty. I love this community, and it certainly has proved to love us. We had a fabulous summer, fabulous year, and my daughter is getting married this Saturday, so I have a lot to be thankful for. We’re holding the reception here at the restaurant, so we’re closing for the occasion. Thank you, Jamestown, you are the best. You can quote me on that.”

Bill Munger — owner of Conanicut Marina and Ship’s Store: “The summer had a slow start, but when the weather improved in the second week of July, business took off. Overall, the numbers were about the same as last year. Although the costs of running a boat are escalating, people will always play on the water. It just means shorter trips for power boaters and sailing will become more popular, like in the ‘70s. Although it hasn’t happened yet, I think the rising prices of everything will reflect the cost of doing business in this economy. However, we’re going to hold our prices as long as we can without compromising service to our customers. I think that in the long-run, prices in every business category are going to reflect dramatic rises in everything from the cost of goods and services, to increases in taxes and utilities. Everybody will make adjustments and learn to live with it.”

Steve Sherman — owner of Jamestown Hardware: “This summer was better than last. People are sticking close to home, so that’s good for us because they work on their houses. But an uncertain economy depresses everybody, and that’s not good. The cost of transportation has already affected us. But we’re going to hold our prices as long as we can. We’ve always done that when the economy suffers a downturn. We’ve gone through this kind of thing before and somehow everybody manages to survive. I think it’s good to be optimistic.”

Debbie Swistak — owner of Jamestown Designs, a gift store, gallery and frame shop: “It was a very good summer, better than last year. However, our business isn’t really tourist oriented. We depend on local support, and fortunately we get it. As far as the economy goes, I’m usually optimistic, but it is difficult at this time. I think uncertainty makes everyone a little nervous.”

Colleen Arruda — manager of the Bay Voyage, a bayside resort featuring fine dining: We were down a bit from last year. Slightly lower occupancy. We’re starting to see delivery surcharges from our suppliers. We haven’t raised the prices other than a slight increase in lunch, which has not been altered for over three years. I think we’re in a temporary slump. We have to see a turnaround at some point or the economy will collapse. We’re optimistic. We want the local business so we’ve actually lowered some of our prices to entice more local support.”

Michael Ridge — owner of Spinnakers, a dockside ice cream establishment: “Just like ice cream, the summer was sweet. We did great. I have no complaints. The weather was warm and sunny, and that’s good for the ice cream business. We’ll get through these hard times. I’m optimistic.”

Steve Liebhauser – owner/chef at Slice of Heaven, a gourmet bakery and caterer serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner: “We did better than last year. It was actually a great summer. We started serving dinner and expanded our services, and that was well worth the effort. Although the cost of goods has dramatically risen, we haven’t reflected the costs in our retail prices. We’ll hold off as long as possible. I think it’s a temporary situation that will work itself out. I’m optimistic.”

Stacy Feight — owner of East Ferry Deli, serving gourmet coffees, breakfast and lunch: “We did better than last year. It was a great summer with good weather and good business. Because of the high price of fuel, however, we’re experiencing surcharges for deliveries from our suppliers. Although we’re trying to hold off, we might have to make a slight increase in our prices that reflects this unfortunate rise in the cost of doing business. We’ll hold our prices as close as possible for the winter and raise them only if we have to. I think everybody’s pretty much in the same situation.”

Andrea Colognese — owner of the Village Hearth Bakery with his wife Doriana Carella: “We had a fabulous summer — lots of people. Business was better than the year before, and the future looks good, although fuel prices and cost of transporting supplies is putting a strain on everyone. Still, business gets better every year. We are keeping our prices where they are for right now. We don’t want to raise them unless it is absolutely necessary. I think the economy will turn around.”

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