By Dana Dittmar
CEO, SCC Chamber of Commerce
Last week, a group of us drove down Shell Point Road with the relaxed, weekend-is-starting expectation of having a nice dinner at Little Harbor. We were looking forward to sitting outside, cooled by the Bay breezes, listening to music and dining on something exotic. After a fantastically busy season taking care of Snowbirds, we have earned a little down time as the summer doldrums kick in.
But as we got closer to the Sunset Grill, we noticed something was amiss. The parking lot was overflowing with cars! It looked like the infield at Daytona Motor Speedway.
A quick chat with the maître d’ gave us quite a shock — an hour and a half wait! I checked my watch — it was 7 p.m. I looked at the calendar function on my phone — it was May 22nd. All season I had waited for the Snowbirds to amble back on up north so I could have a leisurely dinner, and it was still an hour and a half wait?
Something is wildly different this year. It isn’t just at the Sunset Grill, either. There are still long lines at the Walmart checkout and constant traffic on S.R. 674. The post office still has its winding wait and the pool is full of sunbathers on Sunday afternoon.
This is the time of year when most businesses go into their off-season mode. Some cut staff hours, others stock less inventory. They try to reduce their overhead as much as possible until fall, when the customer count begins to climb back up to a profitable level. If the Great Recession is still going on, you would never know it by all the spending going on in the South Shore area.
Friends and fellow businesspeople in the area who usually come by the Chamber or are eager to meet for a drink after work are now too busy to return a phone call. We’re not complaining, mind you! This is a wonderful indicator the economy here is getting stronger and our year-round residents are patronizing our local businesses.
When a Realtor is too busy with a closing to make a networking function, that’s good news. When it takes several weeks to get the banquet room doors replaced here at the Chamber, that means they’re busy! When we wait in line to buy groceries, that means money is being spent right here in our own backyard.
So next week I’ll venture out a little earlier, prepare mentally to sit at the bar for a while before we can get a table, and think positively about all the commerce that is going on in what is usually the slowest time of the year. Summer doldrums? I don’t think so.