Sep 092011


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BETHANY BEACH — As the summer comes to a close, towns and businesses are preparing for the shoulder season.

Carrie Subity, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, said she has been working closely with the Bethany Beach Business Council, which formed last September, to promote events and generate traffic downtown during the offseason.

Among the events being planned are the 33rd annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival on Sept. 10, an exhibition that attracts approximately 100 artists, and the Great Pumpkin Festival in Millville on Oct. 1. Both events attract thousands of visitors, she said.

According to Subity, visitation in the Quiet Resorts during the shoulder season, particularly in the fall, has increased in the past six years. She said retirees and families with young children tend to vacation in September and October, when the summer crowd has dispersed.

“People are seeing how beautiful the fall season is down here,” she said. “There is beautiful weather in September and October.”

While many restaurants and businesses close or reduce their hours after Labor Day, Leroy Gravatte, owner of the Addy Sea, said he will be relying on word-of-mouth advertising to let people know that his bed and breakfast will remain open.

“Our breakfasts are better than ever (in the offseason),” he said. “And customers won’t have to stand in line.”

Gravatte said the beach is best in the fall due to less congestion, warm ocean temperatures and free parking after Sept. 15.

“The parking situation (during the summer season) can be unfriendly (to visitors),” he said. “There are a lot of smiles after the parking machines go down.”

While the bottom line is important, maintaining morale and retaining key employees is essential for Gravatte during the shoulder season. He said he tries to provide year-round employment for his staff, especially during these tough economic times.

“We have some wonderful people who have served us, and we want to retain them,” he said.

Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said with the addition of more shoulder season events, marketing beach towns is easier than it was 20 years ago.

“What we found is that we’re not (running) 52 (full) weeks a year, but we’re as close as we can to 52 weekends, unless there is bad weather in the area,” she said. “The more that’s offered to (visitors), the more likely they’ll come back.”

Everhart said the Chamber is now planning the 35th annual Fall Sidewalk Sale, Oct. 7-9; the Autumn Jazz Festival, Oct. 12-16; and the 22nd annual Sea Witch Halloween & Fiddler’s Festival, Oct. 28-30, which attracts more than 150,000 guests. The Chamber also does regional and mass marketing to promote the area and keep a competitive edge.

“Our job is to get the visitors here so that the businesses can do business,” Everhart said.

Subity said she hopes events will be held in conjunction with the Bethany Beach Business Council every other weekend in the fall, and more often in the spring.

“It’s kind of a what comes first, the chicken or the egg,” she said. “If businesses see more people in town (during the shoulder season), they’ll tend to stay open longer during the year.”

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