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Businesses, tourism officials: it’s been a strong summer so far

August 4, 2012
CHRIS MORRIS , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Last winter was a tough one for this community's tourist-based economy, but the busy summer season is helping some businesses get back on track.

Marc Galvin, president of the Lake Placid Business Association and co-owner of the Bookstore Plus, said it's too soon to say whether businesses are back in the black after losing revenue to a poor winter season. The entire Northeast suffered from a lack of snow, and fewer tourists flocked to the Lake Placid area to partake in its offering of winter activities.

"But as far as summer numbers go, people are happy," Galvin said.

Specific numbers for July aren't available yet, but tourism figures from June show some promising trends. Jim McKenna, president of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, said the Smith Travel Research report shows gains in 2012 compared to 2011.

With 60.6 percent of lodging facilities in Essex County reporting, this June was up 3.3 percent for total occupancy. The average daily rate, which shows how much people pay per room per night, is running 4.5 percent ahead of last year: This year's ADR is $135.20, compared to $129.50 last year.

McKenna said the biggest number the lodging industry looks at is known as RevPAR.

"That represents revenue per available room," he said. "That shows it's up 7.9 percent from June of last year.

"Those are all great indicators that June was a busy month," McKenna added. "We're basically even with last year at this point."

McKenna noted that the bulk of business in the Lake Placid region happens between mid-May and mid-October. He said the winter season represents less than 30 percent of the business cycle.

"Even though we were down in those periods, as long as we have a strong warm-weather season, we can usually rebound," he said.

McKenna said his office is a little uncertain about how July figures will pan out. With the Fourth of July falling on a Wednesday this year, he said the area didn't get as big an influx of visitors as it usually sees.

Lake Placid was "pretty close to peak capacity" for the Ironman triathlon last Sunday, McKenna said, and with the Summit Lacrosse tournament extended to almost two weeks this year, tourism officials are feeling optimistic.

"Even with a slow start to July, we feel it's going to be ending pretty strong," McKenna said.

Jon Lundin, spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, said Olympic venues are experiencing a "banner year" this summer.

"Visitations have been strong, and like most businesses after this winter, we needed a shot in the arm," he said. "Everybody is concerned about the drought and the dry weather forecast, but certainly, it's brought a lot of visitors to our venues."

Lundin said most visitors at ORDA venues are doing the expected activities: tours of Olympic sites, bobsled rides, driving up the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway and riding the gondola to the summit of Little Whiteface. ORDA has also hosted Can-Am Hockey camps and other events.

ORDA officials have also been working hard to direct visitors to local businesses, Lundin said.

"We have literature about all of the events and all of the sites here in Lake Placid: John Brown's farm, the quaintness of Main Street, boat tours on Lake Placid," he said. "As much as we want them to visit the Olympic venues, we want them to experience all that Lake Placid, Wilmington and the surrounding communities have to offer. Everybody benefits when we work together, and I think that's evident this summer."

The Summer Olympics in London have helped boost people's interest in visiting Olympic sites, Lundin added.

He said ORDA won't have hard figures on revenue or visitation until late September, when it transitions into the fall season.

Christopher English, along with his partner Stephen Dori Shin, is owner of Antediluvian Antiques & Curiosities on Main Street. The business opened in May 2011.

English said business was good last summer, and it's been as good or "probably even better" this summer.

"We're very fortunate," he said. "We're kind of high-end antique dealers. We've found that the high-end market has stayed the same, and maybe even gotten a little bit stronger. The things that sell the best are on both ends of the spectrum: either really cheap or really expensive. It's that middle of the market that's tough right now.

"We were pleased with what we did last summer, considering it was our first year."

Keegan Konkoski is co-owner of Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar, a restaurant on Station Street. The restaurant is doing well this summer and has shown growth over last summer, she said.

"For a new business, we feel we have done very well," she said.

Galvin said the best may be yet to come.

"August is often the best month of the year for businesses," he said. "July is so event-driven. With events like Ironman, people are here for the race; they're focused on the triathlon and the athletes. In August, people are here for leisure. They go hiking; then they eat at the restaurants and go shopping."

"I 100-percent agree," Konkoski said. "In our years, Ironman kicks off the summer for us. Ironman week is amazing. And then from here on out, August proves to be the busiest month of the year, along with February."

Galvin stressed that the business community is grateful for big events like Ironman; that's why a subcommittee of the LPBA helped orchestrate the dedication of a monument to Ironman last week at the Mirror Lake Beach.

For businesses experiencing their first Lake Placid summer, it could end up being a benchmark to compare future seasons with. That will be the case for Kathryn Culley and her husband Sonam Zoksang, who opened up Visions of Tibet in the Alpine Mall on Main Street in December 2011. The store sells handmade clothing, accessories, jewelry, housewares, textiles, and meditation and relaxation aides.

"We're finding (business) pretty good," Culley said. "We don't have anything to compare it to, of course. It's looking like it was a good choice for us to open in Lake Placid."

Event organizers are doing well, too. Bill Billerman runs the Songs at Mirror Lake Concert Series, held since 2006 on Tuesday nights throughout the summer at Mid's Park downtown. He said the series, which is free but does accept donations, has been very successful this summer.

"We've had record attendance," Billerman said. "We've also had some pretty good support from the community."

Last Tuesday's concert, featuring old-time string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, may have attracted the biggest crowd in the series' history. Billerman said organizers estimated that 650 to 700 people attended, which would be an all-time high.

"One of the things we saw was a good turnout of people spending (money) that night," he said. "That included merchandise from the band, bringing in food purchased at local restaurants. Even with donations, people were very generous."



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