Merchants sing praises for summer of ’09
The sun shone brightly – literally and figuratively – on Port Aransas during the summer of 2009.
A survey of several businesses about business activity during the summer in general, the Labor Day holiday specifi- cally and the fall season to come found all interviewed happy with the summer and the final holiday, and with optimism for the fall.
The consensus in the business community is that Port Aransas benefited from the economic downturn because vacationers stayed close to home and that a summer full of sunshine turned profits here.
Retailers repeated superlatives, from “fantastic,” to “fabulous,” and “excellent,” on Tuesday, Sept. 8, after the last hurrah of summer, the Labor Day holiday, ended.
“Fabulous. More than fabulous. Excellent, excellent, excellent,” was Sally Marco’s response when asked about summer business at her shop, Gratitude.
The Labor Day holiday was “really good, really busy,” she said. Fall will be “more fabulous – way good. People love to come in the fall,” Marco said.
“Fantastic” was the description of the summer given by Juls Kramer, manager
’for owner Deb Wilson at A Mano. “We had a great summer; we couldn’t be happier,” she said.
The shop, which moved just before Memorial Day from a location in Old Town to the south side of town on State Hwy. 361, attracted many of its customers from the original location as well as “a lot of new, wonderful customers,” Kramer said.
“We had a lot of new people who had never been to Port A before, and they were very pleased with the shops and restaurants,” she said.
Kramer said they had a lot of shoppers whose husbands were playing golf.
“Everyone was enjoying our weather and beaches. We didn’t hear any complaints – no complaints that it was too crowded or not good service. We didn’t hear anything bad, and we get a ton of people through here. Everybody seemed happy shopping and eating,” Kramer said.
Glenn Martin, owner of Woody’s Sports Center, said, “My waterfront was wonderful.”
Martin had not compared figures to last year, but business was “definitely up, overall up 10 to 15 percent.”
Tournaments generated bigger revenues, offshore fishing was lucrative, but private charters were down a little because of the price and limits on the number of fish that can be retained. “Party boats” that carry large numbers of anglers, nature and sightseeing excursions, jet ski rentals and parasailing all enjoyed increases in business over last summer, Martin said.
Port Aransas Brewing Co. co-owner June Petitt said business was up “pretty phenomenally” over last year, which was their first year in business.
“We were very pleased. We definitely saw an increase (in business) because people knew us and because of Texas Monthly – that helped significantly,” Petitt said.
One of the restaurant’s hamburgers was named to the magazine’s Top 50 list.
“We hope, as we go into fall, we will continue have good business,” Petitt said.
They are trying to keep their calendar full of special events.
“A lot of car clubs like to take trips, so we’re working with them to bring them to Port Aransas,” Petitt said.
Lack of rain was a plus for most businesses, and if not for an agreement to buy effluent from the water district, it might have been a negative for the Newport Beach and Golf Club.
However, general manager Kevin Michael said, “A heavy volume of visitors” increased the effluent available to the golf course.
“The golf course is holding up – it’s in extremely good shape. A lot of courses had no water at all. We kept ours green with the water reclamation system that draws ground water and the effluent,” Michael said.
“The summer was great. We exceeded all expectations for summer by 15 percent, and our projections were fairly aggressive,” he said.
The course averaged 120 golfers a day during the week and close to 200 a day on weekends and holidays.
With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, things have slowed, but the outlook for fall is busy with tournaments for corporations and charities on the calendar.
Weekends are busy thanks to second homeowners, but weekday play, Michael said, “is a bit of a question mark.”
Susan Powell, owner of the Back Porch Bar, attributes a great summer to people not taking big trips and instead staying closer to home.
“We’re San Antonio’s beach, so our numbers are up,” Powell said.
Traffic slows from Labor Day through September, then “all of October is so popular. The weather is so good, so the numbers are great in October. That’s the best month in Port A,” Powell said. The open air, waterfront bar closes from November until March.
The summer, from what she’s heard from other business people in town, was “win-win for everyone.”
All those people have to stay somewhere, and many of them chose CCMS Resort properties. Managing director, Jim Triplett, said CCMS properties exceeded expectations in light of economic issues that are plaguing the state and elsewhere in the country.”
Triplett described the Labor Day holiday as “excellent,” and said September appears “equally good.” He anticipates a surge of Winter Texas starting to arrive in December.
Without hard numbers to go from, Stripes convenience stores area manager Kim Hansen was comfortable saying, “We were well ahead of last year and last year was a ‘decent’ year.”
All the summer holidays were well ahead of last year and Labor Day was “fantastic,” Hansen said.
Mike Hall, co-owner and store director of the Family Center IGA, said the summer exceeded last summer’s numbers, and last summer was “one of the best on record.”
“It isn’t huge, but it is an increase,” Hall said.
He also pointed out that on Labor Day weekend last year “we were up against rain. It rained cats and dogs – horizontally – so the increase may have been a ‘gift’ from last year.”
In previous economic downturns, Hall said, Port Aransas “typically has done pretty well.”
He believes “the worst is behind us and it’s going to get better, but it will take time.”
Hall, a veteran of some 30 years with the grocery store, said he anticipates a good winter.