The anticipation of thousands of new customers has local businesses on the ready.
The Convention & Visitor’s Bureau held three separate informational meetings Monday at Stoney Creek to help raise awareness of the upcoming total solar eclipse. There were about 100 attendees in each session.
“Businesses were interested in traffic and how many people were coming,” said Beth Carmichael, director of project development at CVB and community facilitator for the solar eclipse. “And we just don’t know that information. We’re not going to know until the day that it happens.”
But Carmichael said there is expert information that points to an estimate.
Previous eclipse events in other cities have garnered between 50,000 and 500,000 tourists to host cities.
Some of the tips Carmichael and other organizers tell businesses are to welcome visitors with signs, be aware of slow credit card machines and have options for payment.
“Our business tips help start a conversation for business owners, business managers and supervisors to start considering what the weekend of Aug. 20 is going to look like,” she said. “We ask people to start thinking about how they’re staffed, spotty cellphone coverage and how their employees get in touch with them if they’re running late.”
Like the St. Joseph Public School District, there are several businesses around St. Joseph that also are going to close that day. Those that are open, are establishing a plan.
“We’ve added a lot of staff throughout the day and throughout the weekend as well,” said Gina Owens, manager at The Pizza Shoppe. “And we’re also having them come earlier because with traffic flow possibly being that way, we know if could take a lot longer to arrive, and even to get home. So we’re kind of taking that into account.”
The large crowds will take a bite out of businesses’ inventory, too. Officials are urging residents, and businesses, to shop ahead of time.
“We assume it will be like a busy Friday night,” Owens said. “But probably more. And then we have some vendors who come repeatedly through the week, like our produce. So we’ll be prepping as the week goes, and getting extra with each order.”
Owens said the pizzeria isn’t alone in its efforts. Almost all of the surrounding businesses in the shopping center, as well as the landlord, have held meetings to develop a united front. Those efforts include everything from outdoor seating, special events and shopping discounts, to hiring extra security.