Summer business booming

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— A steady stream of visitors that doesn't look like it will taper off for at least two more weeks is keeping the streets packed, restaurant lines long and local lodges full.
"It's been nuts, and it's been non-stop," Blimpies sandwich shop owner Steve Hill said. "People started coming in again last night."
This week and last are the most crowded Steamboat has been this summer.
Last weekend, some 5,500 people associated with the Triple Crown National Boys Baseball Tournament came into town. They filled mountain and downtown hotels and condominiums, pushing them to occupancies that were slightly higher than the same weekend last year. The Steamboat Chamber Association's lodging barometer listed total occupancy at 92 percent.
This weekend is shaping up to be just as full.
As of Thursday morning, before all the weekend reservations had been made, total occupancy had reached 88 percent.
While the high numbers of visitors mean good business for local merchants, they also have put a strain on the already-thin service industry labor force.
"We've hit record sales," said Hill, who has been opening his doors at Blimpies at 11 each morning to a line of hungry lunch patrons. "We ran out of food Sunday, because we only have so much storage here. And we're so short-staffed, we've been having to close early just to give the staff a break, which kind of stinks. We're closing at 7 p.m., rather than 9 p.m. It's the break that's keeping my workers going."
Local lodges are facing similar problems.
"It's been so crazy right now," Best Western front desk manager Ben Franko said. "We're understaffed, too, and are looking for people."
Franko said the Best Western is booked through the weekend, and that occasional cancellations are usually filled immediately.
"People are just passing through here, and they don't realize it's a year-round town," Frank said. "They think nothing happens here in the summer, and they're surprised when they can't find a place. The chamber of commerce keeps us really busy."
More people mean more business for nearly everyone, including the trash company. Waste Management has been taking calls for extra service recently.
"It's busy season," Waste Management account representative Ken Bohney said. "And our clients are going to the grocery store rather than strictly going to restaurants, and that generates more trash. Whoever's responsible for an account an owner, a manager can call in for extra services when their containers are overflowing."
Bohney said some people don't call in when their containers or bins get to that stage. Sometimes, police have to remind property owners to call in for extra trash-hauling services. However, Bohney said there hasn't been a problem with that sort of thing this year.
Steamboat isn't the only place feeling the strain. Down-valley lodges are just as packed.
"We've overflowed a few times this summer, sometimes not counting overflow from Steamboat," Craig Holiday Inn general manager Mikki Stoltzfus said. "Last weekend, we sent our overflow to Meeker, because all the Hayden lodges were full, too. There's overflow from Steamboat here now, though."
Seven Triple Crown teams are staying at the Craig Holiday Inn this week, and the players and their families are occupying some 80 rooms.
"It's like this every summer this time of year," Stoltzfus said. "We're sold out from Wednesday through Saturday, and for the first two weeks of August."
The rest of the 130 baseball teams in the valley to play this week are staying in Steamboat.
"They're having a great time, they love it here," Triple Crown director Harlan Moore said. "They've been river rafting, biking on the mountain, doing the gondola thing. Some of them will start leaving Saturday, and the tournament finishes on Sunday."
If this year's tourist trends are anything like previous years', local retailers, city workers and lodges should get a break by late August, when events slow down a bit. It will be a welcome change for some businesses.
"Right now, managers are having to work lots and lots of hours," Best Western's Franko said. "Our end in sight is in about two weeks, when things start dropping off again."

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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