2012-09-13 / News

Local businesses reflect on season

No hurricanes helped town thrive through Labor Day

While most of Jamestown’s restaurants had a successful summer compared to last year, it wasn’t just the food service industry that thrived. There were many other businesses that got an added boost in sales thanks to sunny skies.

Jamestown Outdoors, a company that rents kayaks, bicycles and paddleboards, had its first summer in Jamestown, and according to owner Beth Hatch, the new business is off to a flying start.

“We were really happy,” said Hatch, who owns the company with her husband, Jason. “We thought it turned out great. Everyone in Jamestown was really supportive and we want to thank everyone for that. They really helped us by spreading word of mouth and helping us grow this summer.”

Hatch said that as with any start-up businesses, adjustments were made as the summer went on. Because the owners were initially unsure of what the demand would be, they found themselves having to buy additional kayaks as well as a few more bicycles. The paddleboard rentals were also strong.

Jamestown Outdoors also collaborated with another new business, the Island Heron. The rental company supplied the yoga studio with paddleboards for its weekly sessions on the bay. It proved to be such a popular venture that the yoga studio had to add another course.

“Island Heron had to add an extra class,” Hatch said. “Originally it was just on Saturdays, but they added Mondays also. We’re going to try to continue doing the Saturday classes through September as long as the weather stays nice.”

In August, Jamestown Outdoors began conducting sunset paddles for kayakers and paddleboarders in Sheffield Cove. The company hopes to keep renting through October, weather permitting.

Heidi Steele, a partner at Island Heron, reported that the yoga studio’s first summer was a successful one. “We had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be good. We had a lot of the summer folks who were really pleased that we were here. There was a lot of repeat business from the boaters, the people who were here for a week or two, or for the whole summer. We keep trying to offer new things to get more people in.”

Steele said that people came from as far away as Massachusetts for the yoga sessions on paddleboards, and that she was pleased to be able to collaborate with another local business.

“Jamestown Outdoors is fantastic to work with,” Steele said.

Baker’s Pharmacy is the only such business on the island, thus making it an important destination for both year-round residents and visitors. Pam Shepard of Baker’s said that it was a busy summer, with more customers and higher sales. Grapes & Gourmet continued to attract wine and specialty food lovers to East Ferry this summer. Marnie Crawford called the summer “wonderful” and said that it compared favorably to last summer, due in large part to cooperation from the weather.

“There were a lot of people in town,” Crawford said. “There were a lot of people going over to Newport, so the Jamestown ferry had a lot of activity between the America’s Cup races and the tall ships.”

Crawford also pointed to the fact that the Fourth of July was in the middle of the week this year, which was a factor in bringing more people to town on a weekday. She also said that having the fireworks downtown on the following Saturday helped to spread the whole week out for business owners.

In August 2011, Hurricane Irene had a negative effect on some local businesses according to Crawford. Not only was power out for a period of time, but many boat owners took their vessels out of the water in preparation for the storm, and never put them back in. The good weather caused this year’s August numbers to be dramatically better.

Ilesh Patel of Jamestown Wine & Spirits said that while the summer was good and he showed increased sales compared to 2011, the Newport events – especially the tall ships – didn’t bring in the crowds he expected. “The tall ships were a disappointment,” he said. “There wasn’t much of an impact, to be honest with you. But overall, the whole summer was very good. It was a very steady summer.”

Jamestown Fitness is affected by the weather in the opposite way of most local businesses. According to owner Barbara Lundy, nice weather tends to keep people out of the gym, although hot, humid days do bring people in. Fortunately, this summer had its fair share of hot and humid days, so she saw about the same number of customers as she did last year.

It wasn’t only local businesses that had a good summer. Jamestown’s organizations also fared well this year. Jamestown Historical Society President Linnea Petersen said that attendance was up at the windmill this summer, aided by the nice weather as well as Windmill Day in July, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the mill. Some 350 to 400 came out to the event. Both the windmill and the museum will remain open on weekends through Columbus Day.

Jill Goldstein, the program director for the Parks and Recreation Department, said that the attendance at the summer camp was the highest it has been in the last five years. A total of 81 children attended, with approximately 25 attending on any given day. The camp is open to children who are in kindergarten up to sixth grade. Baseball and basketball camps for ages 6 to 12 also did well this summer.

Goldstein said that the Sunday concert series that the rec department puts on each year at East Ferry was also well attended. Featured musicians included Jamestown’s own Dead Blues Society, as well the community band, which played at the final concert of the summer.

Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine Services, summed up the summer for many local business owners. “The summer was positive all the way around. In our world, people are a lot happier when the sun shines. That’s kind of what makes us tick. We were blessed with a lot of sunny weather here this summer.”

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