Busy Memorial Day Weekend bodes well for summer
Memorial Day Weekend — the summer season’s “opening weekend” — kicked off with a substantial number of visitors flocking to the island, filling the streets, beaches, stores and restaurants, replacing the island’s serene winter façade with summer hustle and bustle.
The weekend was a success for many shop owners, bringing more or similar business activity when compared to last year, a potential indicator that the summer season is off to a good start.
“Business was rocking,” said Brigid Price, owner of The Three Sisters sandwich shop. “The weather held out and we saw a lot of old faces.” She said that the “Twisted Sister” remains the restaurant’s most popular menu item.
Diane Tripler and Donn Frageau, owners of Mabel’s restaurant, said that their most popular menu item last weekend was seafood, such as lobster rolls and crab cakes. Mabel’s won “Best Rhode Island” chowder at the Block Island Maritime Institute’s Chowda Cook-Off on Sunday — so it was no surprise that their chowder sold well.
“It was a good weekend,” echoed Richard Tretheway, co-owner of G.R. Sharky’s restaurant. “Saturday was busier than Sunday, but overall it was a busier Memorial Day than last year for Sharky’s.”
Virginia Jaeger, the owner of Beachcomber, noted that she sold more beach toys, towels and chairs than usual, suggesting more people were taking in the sun at the beaches. “I haven’t even had time to look at the stuff from last year, which I guess means it was busy,” Jaeger said.
For new Surf Hotel manager Kimberly Afonso, a busy season is imperative for the newly renovated Surf Hotel. The hotel is accepting reservations and plans to open for July 4 weekend. So far interest has been tremendous: Afonso gave at least 250 tours of the hotel over Memorial Day weekend — 250 only because that was the number she stopped counting at.
As the Surf Hotel spent the weekend planning for its opening, 1661 Inn manager Elizabeth Connor enjoyed a busy weekend, booked full by Friday afternoon. “I’m really, really happy with business. It was definitely up,” Connor said.
The number of visitors crossing the water also was positive. Bill McCombe, Interstate Navigation security officer, said that while the Monday fog affected ferry numbers, overall it was a good weekend. New England Airlines owner Bill Bendokas said that original bookings were strong and better than average for air customers; however, the weekend fog threw off the airline’s final flight and passenger numbers.
Once on land, visitors were keen on renting bicycles on Friday and Saturday, according to Aldo’s Bike shop owner Leo Leone, and then visitors preferred to spend Sunday riding around via moped. Leone said the weekend was “a good push to the season.”
“My giant Block Island pillow sold, which was a big sale,” said Block Island Trading Company owner Jon MacKenzie. While the weekend was not especially crazy for MacKenzie, he said it was steady. He did notice fewer boats in Old Harbor, however.
The foggy start to the weekend may have affected boaters in the beginning, but not after the weather cleared. “Once the fog lifted, people came out of the woodwork to the docks,” said Boat Basin manager Fran Migliaccio. She said it was a busy weekend, and the numbers of people that came were on par with last year once the weather improved.
“It was nice to see people getting into their [summer] homes and taking walks,” said Glass Onion owner Mary Anderson. “We were like a second Chamber of Commerce, but in a good way. We had a lot of people coming in wondering where to eat breakfast and lunch. It really felt like the beginning of summer.”