Business wrap up from Mt Washington Valley, NH for Memorial Day 2020 weekend
News from Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce – May 27, 2020
Contact: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, PR@MtWashingtonValley.org
MT WASHINGTON VALLEY USHERED IN SUMMER OVER MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND WITH CAMPGROUNDS, GOLF, RETAILERS AND RESTAURANTS OPEN
North Conway, NH – Every year, the Mt Washington Valley community ushers in summer with Memorial Day weekend, which has come to be known as the “unofficial” start of summer. While the calendar hasn’t changed, everything else about this spring is different. Many of the businesses that draw visitors to Mt Washington Valley are awaiting the green light from the Governor’s office to re-open after the COVID-19 shut down. Attractions and lodging are on hold until further guidelines are offered, golf and campgrounds are essentially only open for New Hampshire residents, restaurants are open for outside and take-out dining only. Yet, retailers are once again able to re-open with mask and distancing requirements, plus customer limits. Bike, boat and kayak rentals have begun for the summer, small guided tours have renewed, and much of the White Mountain National Forest has re-opened. This provided incentive for some housebound in-state and out-of-state visitors to make the trek to Mt Washington Valley for the three-day Memorial Day weekend, according to an informal survey of Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce members.
“It almost seemed like traffic was close to a typical Memorial Day weekend,” observed Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Cars coming into Conway were backed up all the way to the Kanc (Kancamagus Highway) this weekend. Every other car had Massachusetts plates,” said Janice, noting that those visiting Mt Washington Valley were both from within New Hampshire and outside of New Hampshire. However, according to Taylor Caswell, Commissioner of Business and Economic Resources, the traffic across all toll booths in New Hampshire was down by 38.2 percent over last year’s Memorial Day weekend.
With much of the Streetside and Settlers Crossing stores open at Settlers Green, a number of stores attracted a younger crowd of shoppers this Memorial Day, according to Dot Seybold, General Manager. While traffic was lighter at Settlers Green than past Memorial Day weekends, some stores reported sales numbers close to last year, she shared. “People were buying, especially our younger adult shoppers. While foot traffic may have been down over last year for Memorial Day weekend, sales conversions and dollar volume of sales are way up, which allowed stores to reach sales numbers close to last year,” noted Dot.
In Intervale, Ragged Mountain Equipment was open with a sale on their signature fleece products and masks. Having shifted gears to produce masks during the pandemic, customers were drawn to the store for Ragged’s fabric and fleece face masks. “We were about 19-percent off for sales this Memorial Day over last year,” observed Rob Nadler, Founder and President of Ragged Mountain Equipment. “The biggest sellers over the weekend were fleece products, shopping masks and bug stuff,” explained Rob, noting that Ragged Mountain Equipment has an extensive array of bug sprays and repellents.
In North Conway Village, Timothy Psaledakis, owner of Jewelry by Tim and Friends is open in accordance with Stay at Home 2.0, by appointment only. “I wear a mask and provide hand sanitizers at every counter,” says Tim. “Jewelry is dipped in alcohol (whenever it won’t harm the jewelry). My established clients are right on track…and new clients seem to accept the concept of appointments and they get the dedication of undisturbed time,” he explained.
Many of Mt Washington Valley’s golf courses re-opened before Memorial Day in accordance with state guidelines, allowing New Hampshire visitors and members to play with social distancing restrictions in place. Jonathan Rivers of Indian Mound Golf Club explained that typically 60-percent of the weekend traffic is from out of state visitors. “Locals and New Hampshire residents often play midweek, not on holiday weekends, so it was busier during the week prior to Memorial Day weekend,” Jonathan explained. “We had many calls from potential golfers inquiring about the rules for reopening and hoping to play,” he said.
At The Beach Camping Area in North Conway, NH, Tom and Marilyn O’Boyle explained that the campground was open and about 30-percent full with New Hampshire residents and seasonal customers over Memorial Day weekend. With the re-opening guidelines in place, the O’Boyles explained they had to cancel a large number of reservations for out-of-state residents and Canadians who had planned well ahead of time to spend Memorial Day weekend at the campground. “We lost reservations from Canadians for Memorial Day weekend and the Victoria Day Canadian holiday the weekend before,” noted Tom. Tom and Marilyn both shared that many of those at the campground were wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “When you think about it, camping is a great way to easily keep social distance and enjoy the outdoors,” Tom said.
Other campgrounds in Mt Washington Valley asked not to be quoted but reported more than a 50-percent loss in sales over Memorial Day 2019. We heard from other campgrounds that generally people were observing social distancing and that they had to turn away many customers from out of state and Canada inquiring about weekend reservations.
Terry O’Brien, owner of Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub in Glen, NH told the chamber, “Memorial Day was as good as could be expected.” Based upon area codes on phone numbers for reservations, Terry believes that nearly all of the diners were from outside New Hampshire. She also shared, “The patio dining is terrific. Thank goodness the weather has been great. All in all, the guests seemed very grateful to be able to dine again.”
Jen Kovach from Snowvillage Inn and Max’s Restaurant and Pub reported that the restaurant had a successful Memorial Day weekend. “We felt the weekend went well. We offered curbside take out and dining on the porch. We were happy with our numbers considering the circumstances,” Jen told the Chamber. “Everyone that came to pick up had their masks handy. The folks that dined with us followed our House Rules which requires people to wear their masks when they are anywhere but their table. The evening ran smoothly,” she added. “Many folks have been sheltering for at least eight weeks and it was their first time out to dinner or even take out. They appreciated that we were following the CDC guidelines like staff wearing masks, hand sanitizer throughout the dining area. All around it was a successful weekend,” she finished.
On a positive note, Brenda Levitt of Badger Realty told the chamber that real estate sales have not dipped in Mt Washington Valley during the pandemic. “Now more than ever, people want to have a place available to come to where they can feel safe.” For many, the recreational offerings, scenic beauty of the Valley and tight knit community in Mt Washington Valley offers a safe haven for many second home owners.
While the tourism community in Mt Washington Valley is looking forward to opening fully, careful steps are being taken across the lodging, retail, restaurant, attractions and recreation communities to comply with new guidelines from the CDC and the state of New Hampshire. Visitors may look forward to a “new normal” that will include masks and social distancing plus limitations on gathering sizes throughout the summer and possibly beyond. The picture for the Mt Washington Valley tourism community is shifting all the time. Look for updates on the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce’s COVID-19 page.
To learn more about visiting Mt Washington Valley and for complete trip planning resources, please visit www.MtWashingtonValley.org or call 800-367-3364. To learn more about making a trip to New Hampshire, please go to www.VisitNH.gov.
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Photo of family dining on the patio provided by Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub