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Big numbers for summer tourism, not so much for busineses

October 8, 2010

Tourism in Mammoth was off the charts, but that didn’t necessarily translate into booming business, say the town’s business people.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen the bottom,” said Dawn Vereuck of Elegant Bath & Kitchen. “There’s still a sense of fear.”

Tony Colasardo of Footloose Sports sensed largely the same thing.

“People are just a little more cautious” he said. They’re watching their pennies.”

Random interviews around Mammoth business community turned up the same story, over and over. While the town was packed in its relatively short summer – TOT numbers were the highest ever for July and August – visitors seem to have held on to their dough as much as possible.

Fine dining and high-end restaurants reported either flat margins over last summer or that they were off a few points, while family restaurants reported they did all right, under the circumstances.

On the retail end, Vereuck and Colasardo offer excellent snapshots of what happened all over town, and their responses to the visitors’ caution also indicated caution on the sellers’ end.

Vereuck, whose business has been a mainstay of the Minaret Mall for years, said she is moving her business to a slightly smaller space in the Plaza on Old Mammoth Road, and is changing the name of her store.

“The word ‘Elegant’ doesn’t work right now,” she said. “It sounds too high-end, and that’s not just my opinion. It comes from feedback.” She said her new establishment probably will be called “Eastside Interiors.”

For Colasardo, he and his crew made a good call in stocking less product.

“We kind of anticipated a bit of a slowdown,” he said.

The most interesting part of his summer business was watching a flip-flop from visitors and residents who in past years bought bikes. (Bike sales are at the center of his summer business.) This past summer, customers instead veered toward renting bikes. It was an indicator, he said, of the pervading caution in the marketplace.

Another factor is that kids are going back to school earlier than in past years.

“June and July we were up a little,” he said, “and we’d have had maybe a great summer if it wasn’t for the last two weeks of August. Kids are going back to school earlier, and that kind of killed the momentum of the summer business.”

This situation is not isolated to Mammoth or resort towns, Vereuck said.

“I was in Seattle last week, and we’d go by a Ross Dress For Less store, and there were no fewer than 50 people lining up in there, every single hour. At Nordstrom Rack, there were just gobs of people.”

At her store, not so much. “I kind of anticipated that,” she said. “We’re not a necessity. I don’t think we’re going to see a quick turnaround.”

She said she, like everyone else, noticed town seemed to be packed for summer, but that didn’t translate.

“It seems to me that people were here, but chose to stay in and instead of maybe going out, they were cooking in, too.”

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