IN THE REGION — Labor Day may be the ceremonial end of summer, but for a number of local businesses the “shoulder season” will keep the tourists coming as long as the temperate weather lasts.
“We get that question all the time — when do you stop renting? And there really is no definitive answer as long as people are willing to be out on the water and the air is warm enough,” said Sean McMahon, manager of Black Hall Outfitters in Old Lyme, on Friday. “The water temperature stays plenty warm straight through October.”
The company, which is open year-round and has a second location in Westbrook, offers kayak, canoe and paddleboard tours and rentals as well as fishing tours that change with the seasons, including fishing for blackfish in the fall, said owner Gene Chmiel.
“We have a whole transition period that’s pretty cool. It drops off, but because of the estuary and the migratory system here there’s a lot going on,” he said.
The sunset tours change to swallow murmuration tours in the fall and eco tours transform into fall foliage adventures, said Kevin Gallagher, paddle sports director.
“I’ve done the most sunset paddles that I’ve done in the last five years,” he said.
But once school starts, business shifts from families to locals and adults, said McMahon.
“September and October are less of a family dynamic and more of an older more local crowd who are really into the fall foliage,” he said. “In the summer we have lots and lots of families here, bringing the kids, trying to get them away from the cell phones and the screens and out on the water — that goes by the wayside when they go back to school.”
Overall the weather was better than last summer, he said.
“Summer was awesome here we had a lot of great weather especially on the weekends and it was pretty different from last summer,” he said. “Our business very much goes with how the weather goes, so having great weather is a huge factor for us having a good season.”
The weather also affected business at Ocean Performance Inc. in Old Saybrook, which services and stores power boats and other vessels year-round, said Carol Shabbott, store manager, on Friday.
“The season started late, people were not putting their boats in until mid-June this year — in April we got a lot of phone calls who wanted to put their boats in in May but then the weather changed on us,” she said, adding that once the temperate weather started, the pace of business picked up dramatically.
“Summer has been fantastic, there’s been a lot of activity — people are using their boats much more than they have in the last several years, so they’re getting service work more often,” she said. “We’re about booked three weeks out still and here we are in August and it’s still like that. Our winter storage is almost already full.”
Sunny weather brought the crowds this year, said Teddy Anastasiou, who co-owns Teddy’s Pizza Palace in Old Lyme with his wife.
“Summer overall was good. The weather was good and anytime the weather was good, business was good,” he laughed.
The tourist shoulder season will continue through mid-October and start up again in April, he said.
“Our business here is 99.9 percent from the cottages being rented and that goes all the way to Columbus Day. It’s not crazy, but it’s good business every year,” he said. “Business starts in the beginning of April when people come down to open the cottages. When the weekends are good they come down.”
Anastasiou said he’s been in the same location for 40 years and has no intentions of closing, but he is planning to go on vacation in September.
“We want to go somewhere where it’s still summer. We usually go to Greece in the wintertime and now we’re going to go for the first time in September,” he said.
He said he appreciates his local customers who stop by year-round.
“The ones that own homes here are the steady customers — steady in the winter, steady in the summer,” he said.