2010-09-02 / News

‘Drop dead gorgeous’ summer a boon to island economy

By Geoff Campbell

Good weather is good for business – at least, that’s what several Jamestown business owners had to say recently. Most reported that their summer business expectations were met and all were grateful for the mostly dry and often sunny summer of 2010.

“We thought that we would have a busy summer – we had good expectations for business this summer and they were met,” said Carol Anderson.

She and her sister, Debra Swistak, have jointly owned Jamestown Designs for the past 38 years.

“A dry summer helped,” she said. “Everybody was happy in spite of [occasional] higher temperatures and humidity...it was such a beautiful summer.”

Tricia Masso, owner of Tricia’s Tropi-Grille, noted that “business was up.”

More than 50% of the Tropi- Grille’s seating is outside and foul weather makes for lower capacity. That was not the case this year, Masso said.

“There were a lot of sunny days,” she said. “It was a rockin’ summer.”

She gave good weather a lot of the credit for the uptick in business that included “some record Saturdays, where lunch ran into dinner and the restaurant was busy all day long.”

When weather is nice, business is good, said Steven Liebhauser, who is often found behind the griddle mornings at Slice of Heaven.

It was a “good summer – busy,” said his wife, Maria Liebhauser, who has co-owned the restaurant with him for the past 10 years. But, she added, it is too early to know final numbers.

Seasonal expectations were exceeded, according to Bill Munger at Conanicut Marina. It was, he said, a “drop dead gorgeous” summer.

“In the boating world, everybody was smiling,” he said. “Visiting boaters were very happy.”

Munger tempered his enthusiasm for this summer’s results by saying that the “waterfront was economically softer that what we are used to,” adding that “the best years ended three years ago and while there is creep back, it will take a very long time.”

Munger pointed out that he and his wife, May, began Conanicut Marine 36 years ago and together, they have seen three recessions. The difference, he said, is that this one has lasted the longest and has affected everybody, regardless of income level or the size of their boats.

Peter Brockmann, president of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, reported “mixed reviews” regarding merchants’ summer success, but he was quick to add that the recent Chamber-sponsored “Night on the Farm,” was a successful night spurred by “lively bidding in both silent and live auctions.” He suggested that the results of this event may indicate an increase in discretionary income.

Brockmann also noted that Chamber membership, which often improves when businesses have the money to spend on dues, is up slightly from last year.

David Urban, owner of the Secret Garden, said that in comparison to last year, business is definitely up a little bit.

“Weather is the most important thing,” he said. “We took less of a loss this year – not dumping flowers because of rot due to all of the rain last year.”

Urban said that the improved weather led to people entertaining more this summer and therefore, they were planting more flowers outside and buying more cut flowers for inside entertaining as well.

At Jamestown Fitness, there are definitely seasonal expectations, according to owner Barbara Lundy. An influx of summer residents is important to business and Lundy has seen numbers remain the same as last year, she said.

She thought that “it might be better,” but she blames an uncertain economy overall for the lack of growth, she said.

Lundy said that some people are saying yes to fitness membership and no to extras such as classes and individual training sessions. But in spite of fiscal caution by some, a new program this summer saw 18 students sign up for a three-month course in physique enhancement, she said.

“As far as summers go, it was decent,” said Jamestown Hardware proprietor Scott Sherman. He reported that the first four months of the year saw lower activity, but sales in May, June and July brought numbers back to even with last year.

Sherman said that for Jamestown Hardware, the new propane fill station has been a “sales savior,” enabling propane users to fill tanks on the property instead of having to send tanks off island for refilling.

Of course, summer business activity, like the bright and sunny days of summer itself, is fading. Changing menus, reducing hours, winterizing boats and making way for mums and pumpkins are among the adjustments Jamestown business owners are now making in preparation for the next season.

As for the weather next summer? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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