A record-breaking summer for business
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | September 15, 2016
Several local businesses are reporting a record summer.
Many say the weather was a big part of it, along with an abundance of events and activities in the county.
“We had a fantastic summer,” said Karen Frybort, general manager of McKecks Tap & Grill in Haliburton. “The business is definitely up.”
The restaurant doubled its staff from six full and part-time servers last summer to 12, all of whom were full-time.
The third weekend of July was their busiest time.
“I think for everybody, we’ll say, it was the weather,” said Frybort. “There was no reason to go home because the weather was bad. Everybody just stayed.”
Steve Todd, owner of Todd’s Independent Grocer in Haliburton, described it as one of the busiest summers the store has seen since it opened 11 years ago.
“It was well above last year,” said Todd, who believes the weather made all the difference.
The first week in August is always the store’s busiest.
The weather also made a difference for cottage rental agencies. J.T. Lowes of All-Season Cottage Rentals said business was up about 35 per cent over previous years.
“Demand just kept up, especially with all that beautiful weather,” said Lowes, pointing out that the bulk of their bookings are in the summer.
Now in business for 16 years, All-Season Cottage Rentals currently offers about 130 properties across the county.
Many of their clients are repeat customers, but this year there was a noticeable increase in the number of first-time visitors to the area, said Lowes.
And although the Labour Day weekend has come and gone, it’s still busy.
The past two years have been prosperous for Sally Moore, owner of Sunny Rock Bed and Breakfast and head of the Haliburton Highlands Bed and Breakfast Group.
“We are all feeling very good about this summer’s activities, and the comings and goings of guests,” said Moore, speaking on behalf of four of the group’s eight members.
“I’ve had the best summer this year that I’ve had in 21 [years].”
There has been an influx of European visitors and Moore believes this is due to online bookings at travel websites such as booking.com and expedia.ca.
“It took about a year for the Haliburton Highlands to be on the map. There are more and more accommodations that are now being offered as a valid choice,” she said.
She has noticed that visitors are booking earlier than ever before.
Moore thanked all the volunteers who plan the many activities in the community, which provide guests “a rich experience” when they are here.
A couple of business owners said the weather was detrimental to their success.
“It was a slower summer than normal for us because of the heat,” said Chris Bishop, general manager and co-owner of Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride in Eagle Lake. “We had so many days over 30 degrees [Celsius], that’s just not conducive to mountain biking.”
The four-season destination offers 23 kms of mountain biking trails in the summer. It is the only ski hill in the county.
They sold about the same quantity of season’s passes, however pass holders didn’t show up as much as last year, said Bishop.
The heat also made it challenging for Haliburton Highlands Golf Club, a nine-hole course in Haliburton. It placed added stress on the course itself, leading to increased maintenance costs, and negatively affected player turnout.
“It was far too hot for people to play in the afternoon so many days were quieter than they may have been otherwise due to the extreme temps,” said Dale Bull, who owns the business with her husband, Eldon. “In the end, increased costs and less play is not a good recipe for golf course owners.”
The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce echoed the sentiments of businesses that experienced a record-breaking summer.
“All the businesses I’ve been talking to have said it was one of the busiest summers they’ve had,” said chamber manager Autumn Smith.
It was a welcome boost, especially considering the “not-so-great” winter last year.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have a better winter this year so our businesses can continue to succeed,” she said.
The chamber currently has about 265 members.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.