One of the tragic things about destination cities has to do with the ‘seasons’. Unless you’re a huge city like New York or a major metropolitan center like Boston; most tourist cities have an off-season and an on season – in addition to ‘shoulder’ seasons in between.
It is this challenge that has stymied Newburyport for some time. You can have a city in which it is difficult to walk down the sidewalks because of the press of people and then – all of a sudden – the downtown looks like a ghost town! And then the ‘off-season’ hits which is usually mid-January to the third week in May.
I have seen as many as 11 stores change hands in a single year because of this stark reality.
Businesses must have customers or they eventually dry up. Some have managed the lean times by servicing the locals or creating online stores; others scrimp and budget so all their money is made during the fat times.
And the sad fact is, there are not enough Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury residents enough to sustain our downtown. WE MUST HAVE OUTSIDE VISITORS!
For the shops and for the Chamber, it truly is a major challenge to overcome.
And recently, though it is not a cure-all, an economic and prosperous solution has been found.
That’s right – these centers of all things good to eat and drink have become the city’s gold ticket. What can get someone to jump into their car, drive the ten to twenty to thirty miles to a city located next to a very cold ocean complete with cold winds in the darkest dreariest parts of February? A warm, comfortable room with good food, good service and a roaring fire nearby or perhaps a roaring great source of entertainment and to meet there with friends and family.
But what about our non-food oriented shops? There needs to be a flexible understanding that after patrons have eaten, many people want to stroll around our lovely historic city and what better thing to do than to jump into an interesting shop to browse! Unfortunately, many are closed with shop owners not understanding the shopping opportunities that are being missed.
I love the Common Man in New Hampshire but if I have a choice between the one in Windham and the one in Portsmouth; I choose the latter every time. After I eat, I get to stroll Prescott Park and to walk the lovely streets of the historic city and lo, the first thing I want to investigate are the shops!
The restaurant was the lure, but the architecture and history was the hook. Which is why I keep coming back!
We have our year-round attractions – we just need to capitalize the dickens out of them!