Tourism businesses left high and dry
Reservoir shutdown slows sales, may continue for weeks
Summer’s opener has been a slow one for area businesses that look forward to visitors to the county’s lake and reservoir.
All campsites at Marion Reservoir have been closed indefinitely since May 8 because of high water.
Meanwhile, only 30 campers requested electrical and water hookups over the holiday weekend at Marion County Lake, compared to last year’s 55, said Isaac Hett, supervisor for the park and lake.
Gary Davis, who operates Last Chance Bait Shop and Storage near the reservoir, said continued flooding could all but close his business.
“If there is no one out there, that pretty much shuts you down,” he said.
Greg Carlson, co-owner of Carlson’s Grocery, said his receipts were off by about 15 percent this past weekend as fewer boaters and campers bought staples for their summer holiday.
“We definitely sold fewer hamburger buns,” he said.
Assistant lake manager Kevin McCoy of the Army Corps of Engineers said campsites at the reservoir might be closed through the end of June, possibly into July.
He sympathized with businesses that could be hit with a bad summer but said public safety had to take precedence.
“I don’t have a crystal ball as to when the weather will change,” he said.
Carlson said he hoped it will dry out.
“It’s peak season out at the reservoir, this is going to hurt,” he said.
Kim Young, manager of Marion’s Ampride, said the convenience store’s Sunday sales “were really low” but she couldn’t compare them with last year’s because she worked in Hillsboro’s store there.
She said she agreed with Carlson that an extended summer shutdown at the reservoir “could affect the whole community.”
Ampride is stocked with vacation necessities, she said.
“We’ve prepared for summer,” she said, “We have summer coolers and nightcrawlers and suntan lotion. We’re prepared.”
Foot traffic from out-of-town visitors has been off slightly at the Wagon Wheel Express, but business from regulars at the restaurant has been steady, owner Sherry Hess said.
A little rain during a holiday weekend can be a boost to her eatery if campers aren’t able to light fires and cook, she said, but continued flooding is never good news.
“It would affect my numbers during the summer months,” she said.
People that come in to eat at the Wagon Wheel also stop at other stores to buy ice and gas.
Craig Dodd, manager of the Dollar General in Marion said sales there rose slightly this past weekend, though he did notice a slight slowdown in traffic that usually is generated by visitors to the lake.
“Our customers in our core area still come out and support us,” he said.
Last modified May 29, 2019