June rain, lackluster event schedule foil business boom
Jamestown businesses are reporting another steady summer, despite a slow start because of a rainy June. Many business owners agreed August’s beautiful weather made up for some lost time, but other factors came into play.
Scott Sherman took time out from refurbishing the storefront at Jamestown Hardware to report another successful summer. Sherman said business was up across the board: overall sales, average sales and customer count.
“From what we can gather, based on the items we’ve sold, I think the last couple of years people were still hanging tight on spending and fixing things,” Sherman said. “This year people are just fixing everything.”
According to Sherman, paint and hardware sales have been “way up,” and overall sales have increased about 8 percent over last year. After remodeling the store in 2012, Sherman says he added 500 new products and reduced the price on 2,500 existing items. He says those are some of the reasons for the increased business.
Carol Anderson owns Jamestown Designs along with her sister, Debbie Anderson Swistak. They have been in business for more than 40 years, making Jamestown Designs one of the island’s longest running businesses. Anderson reported the summer got off to a slow start because of the weather, but that was made up for by a terrific August.
“All in all,” she said, “it was a successful summer.”
Anderson pointed out the summer of 2012 was exceptional because of events in Newport like the America’s Cup World Series and the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival. While this year’s business could not be expected to measure up, the overall results were positive.
“One of the nice things about being in business year after year is that so many of the people who come on boats or rent places always come in,” said Anderson. “It’s a very nice atmosphere when they do. Everybody seems to love Jamestown.”
On the west side of the island, the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard is owned and operated by Alison Eichler. She said all the marina’s seasonal moorings were sold out, and most of the transient moorings were full as well. A highlight of the summer was a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Eichler added.
Also at Dutch Harbor, it was the first year Tallulah’s Tacos was in residence at The Shack, and the food was a hit with the boating community. Latitude Yacht Brokerage, which has an office at the boat yard, had a successful second season with referrals from both Dutch Harbor and Conanicut Marine.
“It is hard to believe that we will be hauling boats out in a few weeks,” Eichler said.
Conanicut Marine Services operates a marina, a boat yard and a retail store. Owner Bill Munger said once the spring and early summer rains stopped, it turned into a positive season. However, it might have been a little better had the weather fully cooperated, he added.
“Last year there was more going on than this year,” Munger said. “This summer was back to normal. This summer is a better read to the world than last summer, where we had one event after another. At the end of the day, we’re feeling good about life and not too beat up.”
Munger said the business community in general is feeling positive. He said there are no looming concerns for local businesses. Munger looked forward to the naming of a new town administrator and expressed the hope that the new person would be “village friendly.”
“I don’t have anything to complain about,” he said. “The village looks great. The improvements that went on for the last few years have really given the village an uplift. The sidewalks are good. The roads are good. Looking forward it would be nice to extend the work that was done on the curbing and sidewalks on Narragansett Avenue to the rest of the village.”
While Grapes & Gourmet has been around for a number of years at Ferry Wharf, this summer was the first time the business was operated by the Wilson family, who bought the store last year.
“The summer of 2013 was awesome,” said Will Wilson. “It was a lot of fun. We were just getting our feet wet and it went fine. Business was good. A lot of out-of-towners came through. Overall it was a great summer for us.”
The new ownership made some changes to the store including opening up the rear windows. It not only gives Grapes & Gourmet more light, but the windows provide a view of the bay for customers as well. A reconfiguration of the sale area allowed for the inclusion of 70 new bottles of wine. New cheeses were also brought in, and bread is now offered on a daily basis.
“June was kind of a bust for business because of the weather, but it got progressively better,” Wilson said. “August was our best month.”
Ilesh Patel owns the island’s other liquor store, Jamestown Wine & Spirits. Patel described the summer business as average, and not as good as last year. Like other merchants, Patel mentioned the rain in June, as well as the decrease in the number of major events in the area.
Heidi Doyle and Karla Bartley of Island Heron said their second summer in town was a busy one. The women welcomed back a number of faces from last year, said Doyle, and greeted many new people as well. However, while summer visitors do bring in business, Doyle admitted that 95 percent of her clientele is from Jamestown.
Island Heron utilized three health-care practitioners and 12 yoga and meditation teachers. Together they conduct 28 weekly classes ranging from therapeutics to vinyasa yoga. Students ranged in age from 9 to 75 years old
“Our success is measured by the number of people who enter stressed or in pain,” said Doyle, “and leave peacefully smiling.”