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Joyce Endee

So far tourist season brings mixed results

Some Twin Mt.-Bretton Woods businesses up, others down

August 05, 2009
CARROLL — "We're on track and dead even with last year — which was our second-best year," said Jim Covey, who has owned and operated the modest-sized Profile Deluxe Motel on Route 3 with his wife Lisa for nearly seven years. "We're right on track, despite the rainy weather. Hikers and families have been coming north, and our marketing moves have paid off. We're very pleased."

An unexpected plus, Mr. Covey explained, is that Karen Barrett of Lancaster, a talented chef who formerly worked at the Mountain View Grand (MVG), is now the chef at Shakespeare's Inn, also on Route 3, providing a reliable dining experience to both those visiting the area and living locally. Its menu features steak and seafood, as well as Italian and Jamaican specialties, including pulled chicken and pork and spicy chicken soup.

On Sunday, Yvonne Grunebaum, who became the sole proprietor after the untimely death of her partner Dale Shakespeare earlier this spring, welcomed Oral Kelley, also formerly of the MVG, on board to serve as manager of both the motel and the restaurant.

It's been life in the slow lane, however, at the Ammonoosuc Campground, also on Route 3. Weekends have been busy, but there are fewer mid-week stays than they'd like, said Nancy Fontaine, who has owned and operated the place for 14 years with her husband Dennis.

Last year, business fell by 23 percent at the Ammonoosuc Campground, and so far this summer it has not picked up.

"People are just not spending," Ms. Fontaine explained.

Although not pleased with the new nine percent rooms tax, she said that most of the campground's customers come north from Massachusetts and Connecticut and expect to pay taxes.

The fewer overnight stays seem to be attributable to job loss and the nation's staggering economy, Ms. Fontaine said. Seven or eight of their 75 longstanding seasonal RV-campers have told them that they have lost their jobs and might not be able to sign another contract unless they are fortunate enough to secure new employment.

Chris Ellms, director of operations at the Bretton Woods Ski Area, said that the Mount Washington Resort's Zip Line Canopy Tour has taken off in popularity. Between 300 and 400 people a week — rain or shine — are experiencing the three-and-a-half-hour ride, which includes interpretation by naturalists. Each day, between four and nine groups made up of eight adventure-seekers pay $110 apiece, with an $89 Wednesday-only special available for Cos residents.

"We knew people would enjoy it — we did a thorough research job after all — but it's proven to be even more special than even we had thought," explained Mr. Ellms. "It's been terrific!"

The ski lift is not running this summer, however, so the Top O' Quad restaurant is not open and mountain biking is not available at that elevation.

The nine-hole disc golf course on the ski slopes remains popular, and mountain bikes are also available at the Mount Washington Hotel.

"Summertime lift service may run again some day in the future," said Mr. Ellms, explaining that the Resort had determined to put their energy and efforts into developing the highly successful canopy tour.

The Four Seasons Motel on Route 3 had a slow July, but that followed on a very strong May and June, according to owner-operator Lee Hallquist. August bookings look good, however, he added.

July's lower numbers are due to the weather, he believes. Over the years, he and his wife Robin have become a preferred vacation destination for more than 500 families, all from Below-the-Notches, which provides them with the backbone of their business.

Jack Catalano of the Living Water Campground, near the intersection of Routes 3 and 302, said that his campground business has been down by about 50 percent.

"The economic conditions plus rain on 50 of the last 60 days — or some such unbelievable number — have been the big negative factors," the entrepreneur said. The pizzeria and New York-style deli that he recently opened in place of the Quiznos Sub Shop franchise have done an "okay" business, but finding reliable local help remains a challenge, he said.

Business at the Bretton Woods Station, a general store-cum-deli-cum-Irving station on Route 302 adjacent to Fabyan's restaurant, however, is busier than his other business enterprise by a factor of four or five, Mr. Catalano said. Beer and wine sales are also a plus to profitability there, he noted.

Living Water remains an alcohol-free campground.

Although there is only four miles between his two businesses, customers' readiness to spend money is quite different. Fifty- and 100-dollar bills are mostly a thing of the past in Twin, but are not that unusual at the cash register at Bretton Woods.

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