So far, skating fans seem to be sticking close to the ice action, spending freely at the restaurants closest to the pair of Spokane rinks hosting the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in town through Sunday.
They’re also shelling out for small gifts imbued with Pacific Northwest flavors, some shopkeepers say.
At the Made in Washington shop in River Park Square, sales of smoked salmon, huckleberry candy, Spokane T-shirts and coffee mugs have jumped, said owner Julie Rector.
“My sales are up about 30 percent over last January. I think the Convention Center expansion is going to save our life here,” Rector said.
The estimated 60,000 skating fans are packing restaurants in the downtown Doubletree Hotel, the Red Lion Hotel at the Park and dining spots like Chili’s, near the Spokane Convention Center and Clinkerdagger near the Spokane Arena, managers said.
Business is so brisk at the Doubletree’s coffee shop that Dean Feldmeier, general manager of the hotel, said he’s working alongside the kitchen crew and wait staff, who are putting in extra hours.
“The servers were so busy Thursday we brought in two massage therapists” for them, Feldmeier said. “We’d like to have this (business) every month of the year.”
A few blocks away, Clinkerdagger is experiencing overflow crowds for both lunch and dinner.
“We had them lined up with 100 people waiting to get in,” Sharon Hoseth, lead hostess, said of the Tuesday evening supper crowd. She estimates the restaurant is feeding twice as many people as it usually does this time of year – about 200 lunches and 300 dinners during the championships.
A few devoted fans said Thursday they’re sticking close to the competition and haven’t yet hit the malls. That dedication has left some downtown retailers disappointed by weak sales.
“So far, we’ve had our noses to the grindstone watching skating,” said Sue Hawkins, of Fort Worth, Texas. She and her mother-in-law, Violet “Vi” Hawkins, a Spokane Valley resident, bought all-event tickets and haven’t missed more than one or two, she said.
“We did have lunch at the Davenport Hotel yesterday,” Vi Hawkins said as she rode the shuttle bus Thursday morning to the junior pairs finals in the Spokane Arena.
Meanwhile, fans seemed oblivious to some of the spots favored by Spokanites.
Take Boo Radley’s, for instance. A novelty shop just blocks from the ice stocked with quirky gifts and cards, the store has seen less traffic in the past week than it ordinarily does.
“If you’d listened to the media, you’d have thought we’d have to widen our sidewalks to accommodate all the people who’d be crowding our streets and buying stuff. And that really hasn’t been the case,” said Andy Dinnison, owner of Boo Radley’s.
“Hopefully, we’ll see some trickledown after the event” when the locals who’ve staffed the skating venues, hotels and restaurants come in to shop, Dinnison said.
The championships have been a bust for Auntie’s Bookstore, too.
Barbara Nadeau, one of the bookstore’s managers, said she’s disappointed by the dearth of skating-related business and “we were ready for them.”