Seacoast stretching its tourist dollars
Sami Ahmed says Mama Mia's sales of pizza and fried food have slipped because families are packing their own picnics and coolers to save money. (BARBARA TAORMINA/Union Leader Correspondent)
John Hurley fills the salt water taffy bins at the Candy Corner where his son-in-law, Bill Statires says sales have been off by about 10 percent this summer. (BARBARA TAORMINA)
Ashley Harnum stretches some dough at Blink's Fried Doe, a Hampton Beach tradition since 1973. Harnum's co-workers say this year has been average for sales. (BARBARA TAORMINA/Union Leader Correspondent)
"It hasn't been a bad summer. Not the best, but not bad," said Bill Statires, who opened the shop 16 years ago with his wife, Linda.
"It rained on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July weekend was lousy except for the last day, and May was nothing to write home about," she said.
While the weather may have thinned the crowds during the early weeks of summer, Leonard said tourist traffic has picked up during July and August.
"We track hotels and motels, and many times, they have been full," she said, adding that there's always room for visitors at Hampton Beach.
"Our cottages are little homes away from home, and that's good for families," said Russo. "And that's who we like to have."
Ron McIntyre who helps his son, Ray, at Beach Bums, a small shop that sells t-shirts, sunglasses and other beach gear, said it has been a great season for the hotels.
And McIntyre said the past couple weeks have brought in a wave of Canadian tourists who tend to stay for longer periods and spend a good amount of money.
He blames the economy that has beach-goers more budget conscious. For Beach Bums, one problem has been the kiosks and competitors that offer less expensive products.
"The festival used to be something to help the merchants," he said.
But now, so many outside venders come in and set up tables on the beach, nobody comes across the street to the Ocean Boulevard shops, he said.
"We had a really slow spring," said Roche, who added he's noticed a lot more day visitors and families among the crowd.
And at nearby Mama Mia, which offers a menu of soft-serve ice cream, pizza and just about anything that can be deep-fried, Sami Ahmed said while the influx of families visiting the beach has been nice to see, it hasn't been great for business.
While businesses are adapting to a more family-orientated beach crowd, some are also looking at the development taking place on the waterfront and wondering how that might eventually affect them.
He said that shift in property use would be, by far, the biggest change for seasonal beach businesses that lease and rent storefronts.
As a member of the chamber, Leonard has heard some of those concerns, but as a longtime Hampton Beach goer, she feels the town is headed in a positive direction.
"I think what we're seeing is a nice balance of everything."
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