2007-07-12 / News

Tall ships weekend a big hit with island retailers

By Michaela Kennedy

Photo by Jeff McDonough Photo by Jeff McDonough In the wake of the Tall Ships parade and July 4 holiday week, Jamestown merchants are smiling and showing pride in the island's downtown. Their smiles reflect the joy of working in a vacation atmosphere with friendly visitors, not to mention record sales from the Tall Ships event buoying the local economy.

Phenomenal business reported

Restaurateurs and retailers worked hard during the extended holiday weekend. With pumped-up stock and staff, shops were nonstop busy from early the previous week when the Tall Ships first arrived. When asked about the special event weekend, store workers laugh, shake their heads slightly, and are quick to talk about the experience.

Meaghan Hitt, clerk at East Ferry Deli, opened the Saturday of the festival weekend and closed on Sunday after the parade. "There isn't any way to describe it, except maybe gearing up for the big game," Hitt said. She noted that the deli was stocked and well-prepared for the onslaught of customers.

McQuade's Market employees saw food and supplies fly out the doors, and scrambled to keep shelves stocked. The fury of activity started the first day the ships arrived that Wednesday, through the weekend. "It was nuts with a capital Z," said Trish O'Brien, clerk at the store.

Trish Masso of Tricia's Tropi Grille said the restaurant had a couple of record-breaking days, giving credit to the mostly fine weather. "We were so busy, I didn't have a chance to talk with patrons," she added.

Amy Barclay de Tolly at Trattoria Simpatico noted that the restaurant was "phenomenally busy" and hit record numbers that weekend. The trattoria served breakfast the day of the Tall Ships parade, a one-time service, and the staff also catered a few waterfront parties. Barclay called the success "a coincidence of perfect weather, with an elongated weekend because of the July 4 week."

Mike Ridge at Spinnakers bubbled with infectious laughter. "We had extra everything," he said about his supplies and servers. The waterfront café hit record sales for ice cream on Saturday, and record sales for food on Sunday. Ridge showed pleasant surprise at how many locals he saw downtown over the weekend. He expected many to stay away because of the crowds. "It was a nice mix up of visitors and locals. Everyone seemed o be having a great time" he said.

Good support, friendly people

Some merchants commented that preparations for the Tall Ships event by the police and National Guard were excellent. Uniformed personnel were easily spotted on street corners, helping to maintain an easy traffic flow. Chuck Masso of Chopmist Charlie's, who ran three catering jobs simultaneously on waterfront properties, praised the fine job done by the public workers. Frank LaPere of Grapes and Gourmet agreed, offering kudos to the police and National Guard for their support on an "intense" weekend. "We were slammin' busy," LaPere added. He confided that the liquor store's beer cooler was completely empty that Monday.

Caroline Anderson of Jamestown Designs said the gift store enjoyed a big weekend, with a steady stream of customers. Despite the crowds and waiting for service, everybody seemed to be having a good time, she noted. "Everyone was patient and friendly," she said.

Also commenting on the friendly crowd was May Munger of Conanicut Marine Services. Ferry operations at Conanicut Marina went swimmingly, and everyone seemed happy, according to Munger. Passengers numbered in the thousands on Saturday, and a third boat was chartered to help accommodate the crowds waiting for a harbor ride. "It was a good shot in the arm, and we're still early in the season," Munger said.

Ilesh Patel at Jamestown Wine and Spirits caught the thirsty crowd at the end of the day. Since the new owner has not seen a full summer season yet in his new business, the eventful week was a success. "Overall, it's a good start to the summer," he said.

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