Island businesses say boom about holiday weekend trade
Just the right mix of long holiday weekend, arriving cruise ships, and partly sunny, partly cloudy weather provided the right backdrop for Island businesses over the Columbus Day holiday.
Lines reappeared at popular restaurants. Harbormasters were scrambling to find moorings and slips for boaters, and several retailers reported sales as brisk as the fall weather.
The streets of Edgartown were busy Sunday afternoon as passengers from tours and cruises converged on the stores and shops.
Many retailers were offering big discounts, and shoppers seemed eager to snap up bargains.
Cruise ship passengers were among shoppers looking for bargains in Edgartown over the Columbus Day weekend. Photo by Steve Myrick
"It's been a good weekend for us. This weekend was better for us than last year," said Patrick Courtney, who manages Shirt Tales. Signs outside the Main Street store lured shoppers with 50 percent-off deals.
Mr. Courtney credited a bit of cruise ship scheduling luck for part of the retail bounty on Friday afternoon and evening. "This was the last stop they had," he said. "They all wanted to buy gifts before they got home."
For many businesses, this weekend marks the unofficial end of the retail season, and many use the opportunity to clear summer merchandise off the shelves. "They come out for the holiday and the sales," said Beth Forbes, who manages Holly B, a fashion retailer in Edgartown. As happens in many businesses during the shoulder season, Ms. Forbes was pitching in on short notice to cover the busy weekend for summer staffers who have returned to school or moved on to other jobs. "The weather's been great," she said. "Great weather to be out and about."
In Oak Bluffs, the harbor was crowded with weekend boaters. It looked more like August than October, with nearly every slip full. The cruise ship MV Fram, from the Hurtigruten line based in Norway, was anchored outside the harbor entrance.
Cruise passengers Dave and Eric Robinson were thrilled to get reacquainted with the Island where they met and courted, when she was a camper, and then a counselor at the Sailing Camp. "Eric" was a camp nickname that she has kept for a lifetime.
Mrs. Robinson took advantage of a half-price sale to purchase some jewelry, while Mr. Robinson indulged in some ice cream. "We got in at 3 pm, and we're leaving at 10:30 pm," said Mr. Robinson. Oak Bluffs was one of many stops on the Vermont couple's 67-day voyage which began in Iceland, and will end in Argentina.
The Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce credits cruise visitors for a general increase in retail business. Norwegian Cruise Lines has made the Vineyard a regular Friday stop through the fall.
"They're coming to the Island on the last day of their cruise," said Chamber executive director Nancy Gardella. "We're enjoying a growing relationship with the cruise lines, and that's the result of a concerted effort on the part of the three down-Island port communities, and the Chamber."
Demand for lodging was high. Anthony Masi, manager of the Hob Knob Inn in Edgartown said the inn's 14 rooms were all booked for the holiday weekend. "The weather was a lot nicer than it has been in the past," said Mr. Masi. "We were busier than we were last year. A lot had come for weddings."
Lambert's Cove Inn proprietor Scott Jones was one of the few people who had reason to be displeased with the Red Sox this past weekend. He said his Friday night restaurant business was off a bit, and those who did dine out made early reservations so they could get home in time to see the baseball playoff game.
"But Saturday and Sunday, we were slammed," said Mr. Jones. "It was very good, actually. The inn was full."
The Steamship Authority reports an increase in passenger and automobile traffic for September, compared to September 2006.
Passenger traffic between Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven was up 4.1 percent, while automobile traffic increased 1.2 percent. Truck traffic to the Island decreased in September, off 8.3 percent.
For the period January through September of 2007, passenger traffic was up 2.2 percent, automobile traffic increased 1.1 percent, and truck traffic decreased 6.8 percent, compared to the same period in 2006.