Mt Washington Valley businesses report July 4th holiday was busiest weekend since reopening
News from Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce – July 7, 2020
Contact: Marti Mayne, 207-846-6331, PR@mtwashingtonvalley.org
NOT YOUR AVERAGE JULY 4TH HOLIDAY WEEKEND IN MT WASHINGTON VALLEY BUT BETTER THAN EXPECTED SAY MOST BUSINESSES
North Conway, NH – Heading into the July 4th holiday weekend this year, many business owners weren’t sure what to expect. Most reported that the “phones were ringing off the hook” prior to the weekend, so hopes were high for a busy weekend in Mt Washington Valley, NH. Given the changes in travel since the Coronavirus pandemic, the expectation was that the weekend wouldn’t set any sales records, but hopes were high for a busier weekend. Those businesses responding to an informal survey of Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce members almost unanimously reported that the holiday weekend met or exceeded expectations and that it was the busiest weekend in the Valley since the pandemic struck.
Mt Washington Valley businesses have been dedicated to complying with CDC and state-mandated guidelines for re-opening. This requires less people staying, dining and playing at any given time, all while wearing masks and social distancing. The Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce has been dedicated to providing resources of information, PPC, hand sanitizer and support to the community.
“People who came to enjoy time in the White Mountains this weekend found a community dedicated to safety, social distancing and masks,” commented Janice Crawford, Executive Director of the Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce who’s lead the charge in creating resources and information for businesses to develop safe places for visitors to enjoy secure recreation. “If they didn’t know before they got here, they left after the weekend knowing that Mt Washington Valley businesses are devoted creating an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors safely and dependably,” she finished.
Jen Kovach, co-owner at the Snowvillage Inn told the chamber that the inn was not full, but that guests stayed longer than over past July 4th holiday weekends. She shared a story about one visitor who stayed four days after not being able to travel to Canada. Jen also mentioned that most of the guests who stayed at the inn, dined there too.
Eleanor (Ellie) Koeppel, Owner and General Manager at The Wentworth Inn in Jackson reported a full house for the July 4th holiday weekend. Most impressive, she shared, was the appreciation guests conveyed about being able to vacation in Mt Washington Valley. “What was most rewarding was the kindness, gratefulness and cooperation of my guests,’ Ellie told the chamber. “I heard from so many of them how glad they were for us to be open again, how worried they were for all the local businesses in this area during our closure, how much they love The Wentworth and the Mount Washington Valley. I also heard over and over again how much they want to support us, yet at the same time keep us safe.”
Nearby, also in Jackson, Genn Anzaldi, owner of the J-Town Deli & Country Store described a “packed weekend” for the three day holiday, explaining that while all the accounting wasn’t in when she responded, she expected to exceed sales from last year’s busy July 4th weekend. She observed that people wore masks and respected social distancing requirements in the store. Most took food to go, but some enjoyed shopping and enjoying the new beer and wine collection at inside or outside seating.
In Glen, Terry O’Brien, owner of the Red Parka Steakhouse and Pub, said the July 4th weekend was the busiest they’ve had since March. Yet sales were down by 50-percent over last year due in part to the limitations in seating allowed to maintain social distancing. She also reported that food sales were strong – even better than last year – and customers left generous gratuities. Terry noted that there were a number of larger parties seeking dining (two families traveling together). Sadly, a number of these parties who made the required reservations didn’t show up, leaving tables empty in the restaurant that is already operating at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. “This hurts any dining business. This means not just one table was lost, but two. With having lost 100 seats, we need to use every table that we have to compensate and make sales,” explained Terry.
Golf courses were busy. The New England Women’s Amateur Championship held at the North Conway Country Club concluded right before the holiday weekend, bringing some of the best woman golfers from the region to the Valley.
Additionally, according to Jonathan Rivers owner of the Indian Mound Golf Course, the weekend was strong with players from throughout New England. “We are still offering outside dining unless weather forces us inside, and we are about at 70-percent of the last few years in sales for the holiday weekend. Much better than the 20-percent we were at for May and the first part of June,” Rivers explained. “With some good weather we might be able to come out of this summer better than expected.” he added. Nearly 90-percent of the golf tournaments at Indian Mound Golf Course have been cancelled for the season, so Rivers is hoping daily play and dining will fill in that loss of business.
Operating the new Mountain Bike Park, Adventure Park and Scenic Chairlift Rides – all with limited capacity - Cranmore Mountain Resort reported a strong weekend. According to Becca Deschenes, Cranmore’s Marketing Director, the resort was down only 4-percent in admissions (likely due to their admission restrictions to allow for social distancing) yet up 1-percent in revenue for the July 4th weekend 2020 compared to 2019. Becca speculated the good weather helped to draw people to enjoy the outdoors. She also observed that guests were generally compliant and respectful of rules for admission, masks and social distancing. Becca also observed that generally traffic throughout the Valley was much busier than it’s been for months.
People were shopping over the July 4th weekend at Settlers Green. Laura Lemieux, Director of Marketing & Events at Settlers Green and Settlers Crossing, reported that Friday, July 3 was the busiest day the outlet mall had since their re-opening, with license plates from all New England states in the parking lot. “We had a lot of couples and families taking advantage of the holiday to find great deals around the shopping center. Inventory has been priced to move, and stores are definitely seeing positive results,” Laura mentioned. “Shoppers have been buying, with many stores seeing double conversion rates over last year. Many stores were at capacity during peak shopping hours and had lines outside, especially on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were steady, and the restaurants were all full for lunch both days,” she added.
Beth Scrimger, owner of the Mystery NH Escape Rooms, wasn’t sure what to expect for the holiday weekend, but reported that her sales fell short of what she hoped for with numbers well below last year. “Obviously, several factors were involved... COVID19 and its resulting restrictions, wonderful weather, holiday on a Saturday, new pricing structure for private rooms only, MVM Cinema 7 just re-opening, etc. I suspect entertainment trends have changed everywhere, and will take longer to recover than other industries,” Beth explained.
The chamber heard mixed reports about mask wearing and social distancing. Most businesses who responded to the survey said that visitors to their restaurants, hotels and attractions were compliant when asked to wear a mask. “Almost everyone is either wearing a mask or carrying a mask with them while walking around the open air common areas. Many of our stores require shoppers to wear masks upon entering,” said Laura Lemieux. Beth Scrimger added, “All players were understanding of the mask policy and had more patience if we ran late due to additional sanitizing measures during reset between games.”
Yet, Jen Kovach shared, “People came back from North Conway saying that folks are not wearing masks. This is disappointing because The Mt Washington Valley community has educated the locals about the importance of social distancing and masks. We would wish that all visitors could follow that expectation.”
To learn more about visiting Mt Washington Valley, including complete information on travel restrictions, business re-openings and new safety procedures, go to www.MtWashingtonValley.org. For more information on planning a trip to New Hampshire, go to www.VisitNH.org.
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Photos show shoppers and diners wearing masks at Settlers Green over the weekend. Credit photos to Settlers Green.