PARRY SOUND – With May comes the unofficial start of the busy summer season.
Business owners optimistic for summer 2012.
Downtown Parry Sound business owners are preparing for the busy summer season.
Cody Storm Cooper/North Star
Busy is what local business owners are hoping for. According to Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Perry Harris, many are cautiously optimistic the season will be a strong one.
With the May long weekend just weeks away, rental cottage and resort owners are picking up pinecones from the grounds, turning water on in cabins, repairing dock cribs, and filling their restaurant pantries, ready for a summer of fun in the sun.
Downtown, retail business owners are stocking shelves and hiring new staff in preparation for increased traffic with the return of summer residents and visitors.
Natalie Overend, owner of Craganmore Point Resort in Georgian Bay’s South Channel, is one of the region’s resort owners opening up cottages after shutting down for the winter. The resort opens for the season Friday.
“They way it’s looking we’re almost full, the cottages, for fishermen,” she said of opening weekend. “So it looks like there are some fishermen coming into the area, which is good news for the community.”
The number of cottages booked for this weekend is higher than in seasons past, she said. There is still space available in the summer, so the early full house isn’t necessarily indicative of the season to come.
“With the economy over the last few years I don’t think people book as far in advance as they used to, so it doesn’t mean you won’t fill, it just means you won’t fill in advance. People wait to see what the weather is doing. Last season was a good season: It was hot, dry, and being on an island the weather is very important to us, so we have to staff with the possibility of being very busy, but you never know what is going to happen until you look out the window.”
Another possible hit to the number of people renting a cottage here is price of gas, but, said Overend, if people already own a boat they’re going to use it.
“I have a good feeling about it,” she said of the 2012 business season. “If the weather cooperates I think we’ll do well, all of us in the community.”
Since the 2008 recession, the resort business has been steady and consistent, she said, with the restaurant feeding a steady stream of area residents, but the cottage rentals dropping.
Beverly McCormack-Bell, owner of Beverly’s on the corner of James Street and Bowes Street, has her two additional summer staff in place and is switching over the displays to reflect the new season, with barbecuing items, patio glasses and summer linens.
She plans her summer inventory by taking the market’s pulse through trade magazines and the nightly news, and statistics from Georgian Bay Country, the Parry Sound Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association. It’s those same organizations that help market her business.
The summer, she said, is looking good.
“I think it’s going to be a good one,” she said. “The numbers don’t look great, but my numbers are pretty good already this year. But then again, I get a lot of local support and my business is not based on tourism. I really don’t depend on that like, perhaps, some other businesses in town that open seasonally…. it’s the people who are here that spend their money and they’ve been spending it even more this year.”
Across the way, on James Street, Wolf Den owner Doris Muckenheim was busy unpacking boxes and boxes of merchandise and filling shelves Thursday. She’d ordered the items in January.
“You go on last year’s numbers and hope the summer will be along the same lines,” she said. “It just is what it is.”
Similar to Beverly’s, April has been a good month for sales, although the winter was slow.
“I’m optimistic for the summer,” said Muckenheim.
The Wolf Den relies on the summer traffic and online sales, shipping merchandise to far off places, including Australia and Europe, to make the year after the slower winter season.
In the summer the business’ staff goes from two, including Muckenheim, to four, and this summer she plans on hiring a marketing intern to help better utilize the numbers provided by area organizations, such as the Downtown Business Association.
These three area business owners seem to reflect the same outlook for the 2012 summer season that the Parry Sound Chamber is expecting.
“We always have a positive outlook to the summer, we’re hoping for great weather,” said Harris. “There’s always so much to do in our area, whether it be great weather or not, we’re just fortunate to be where we are.”