2009-07-16 / Front Page

Let the sun shine!

Island businesses hope blue skies will dominate
By Jeff McDonough

Island business owners say they feel like they’ve received a double dose of hard times.

First, the economy tanks with a deep recession. Then, when summer arrives – a season that many island businesses rely heavily on to survive — endless days of rain dominate the local weather.

But blue skies are ahead and most merchants remain optimistic.

David Urban of the Secret Garden said much of May and June were a wash for his florist and garden center business on Southwest Avenue. “We hardly had any sun and had lots and lots of rain. Our plants took a real beating,” Urban said. “The rain definitely affected business. The plants looked awful and we had to throw many of them away.”

Urban said spring garden sales are important to his business. He added that the recent round of blue skies has improved his economic outlook. “We are okay going into July,” he added. “Keep the sun shining.”

Ilesh Patel of Jamestown Wine & Spirits, also located on Southwest Avenue, agreed that the rain was detrimental to his business. Patel said he tracks daily sales from year to year. Business was definitely off during May and June, he said.

“Things have gotten busier” over the Fourth of July weekend, he said. “Weather is very important for business. When the weather is bad, people stay away. When the weather is good, then business is good.”

Patel said he looks forward to better weather for the remainder of the summer.

When asked how his business has been affected by the rain, Steve Liebhauser of Slice of Heaven said it has been “horrible.”

“Luckily, people have to eat so I think people just decided to head out anyway,” he said.

Slice of Heaven relies on summer and good weather because of its large outdoor dining area overlooking Narragansett Avenue. When the rain arrives, people cannot sit outside.

“Everything is Jackie now,” Liebhauser said. “The sun is always shining at Slice of Heaven.”

Chuck Masso of Chopmist Charlie’s on Narragansett Avenue said his business was not impacted by the poor weather. All of Chopmist Charlie’s dining is indoors. “I think that actually helped us,” Masso said. “Our numbers from day to day are about the same as last year.”

Phyllis Bedard of Trattoria Simpatico on Narragansett Avenue said her business has been weather dependent, due to its outdoor dining area. “At one point, I think people just decided to brave the rain and came anyway. They were at our outside bar getting rained on,” she said.

“Our numbers are not the same as last year,” Bedard said. “We had a good Fourth and with the better weather, things have improved.” She said weekday business has been lighter, but weekend business has been picking up.

“Sometimes the weather helps us if it’s cloudy and people decide not to go boating,” Bedard said. “They go out for dinner instead.”

Mike Ridge of Spinnaker’s at East Ferry said his ice cream business suffered. “Oh, yes! The rain put a pretty good crimp in our ice cream sales,” he said. “People are not motivated to go out in a monsoon to buy an ice cream cone.”

On the other hand, Ridge said, his food sales have surged ahead of last year’s numbers. “That speaks to the value and quality of our offering,” he added.

Ridge said the Fourth of July weekend was a major bounce for Spinnaker’s. He sold more than 600 gallons of ice cream over the three-day holiday weekend. That equals about 36,000 ice cream cones. “We had a heck of a Fourth,” Ridge added. “It was nice to have three consecutive days of sunshine.”

Robert Goode, who works for the Town of Jamestown as a gatekeeper at Ft. Getty, said the many days of rain slowed business at the town campground and park. “We did not have as many tent campers as we usually do,” he said.

People also launch their boats at the Ft. Getty ramp. “There were also a lot fewer fishermen. Even the regulars stayed away when it was raining,” he said.

Scott Sherman of Jamestown Hardware said the spring rain hindered his business. “People weren’t doing any outside painting or any yard work,” he said. Since the Fourth of July weekend, business has picked up considerably, he said.

“Our paint department has been hit hard. We’re selling lots of paint and stains,” Sherman said. “Business is improving.”

Return to top