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Jamboree a 'mixed bag' for local businesses

By Laura Reston

BECKLEY, W.Va. -- As the time neared for the National Boy Scout Jamboree, with its thousands of scouts and volunteers, business owners near the Summit Bechtel Reserve site had high hopes for a flood of customers. 

But although the Jamboree has boosted sales for some businesses, some business owners say they had hoped for more. 

"Expectations for the Jamboree were speculative and somewhat naïve," said Dave Arnold, a member of the West Virginia Tourism Commission. Arnold was part of the original panel charged with bringing the Jamboree to West Virginia.

According to Arnold, many people expected congested roads and hordes of visitors throughout the Jamboree. Newspapers and television stations even warned locals to stay away from restaurants and highways.

But the traffic and long lines never materialized -- and now Arnold suspects that local customers are staying home to avoid the promised "carnage and craziness."

Doug Maddy, CEO of the Southern West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the regional trend for businesses a "mixed bag." Some have seen diminished sales, others have seen normal customer levels, and others have done well, he said.

Brian Williams, owner of Pasquale Mira Restaurant, said he has received no new customers since the Jamboree began -- and has actually seen the numbers drop from regular season averages.

"I never drank the Boy Scout Kool-Aid," Williams said. "It has done nothing for our business."

Calacino's Pizzeria owner Jerry Zaferatos bought West Virginia caps and pins to give passing Scouts and visitors. But those hats remained practically untouched late last week.

Over the last three weeks, Zaferatos said, he's had an increase in customers -- about 30 percent -- but nothing since the Jamboree began.

But Arnold said that no one should judge the economic impact of the Jamboree based on revenues from a few days during the Jamboree, or even from the entire month of July. He called that approach "short-sighted."

Jamboree organizers had a longer-term economic goal.

"The big economic impact is that [the Jamboree] puts Southern West Virginia on the map for a million Boy Scout families," Maddy said.

Those families will come back to West Virginia again and again, he said, but the economic impact may take several years to fully emerge.

Sally Kiner, executive director of the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted that the Boy Scouts remain on the Summit site for meals and bring boxed lunches when they venture out for community service projects. That may have contributed to somewhat lackluster restaurant sales, she said. 

Maddy said several other industries have fared better than local restaurants. Hotels have been booked solid, he said, and gasoline stations have made lots of money from passing trucks and car traffic over the last week.

Some restaurants have seen a slight business boost from people who work at the camp and stay in local hotels.

Campestre Mexican Restaurant has served carpenters and electricians from out of state.

But their business has boosted sales by only about 15 percent to 20 percent, manager Ignacio Aguirre said. That's far less than he expected.

Businesses have also served some National Guard members posted at the Jamboree.

Eva Pettri and Alan Cummings at the Family Coin Laundry have been banking on business from the National Guard. They have been trying to tempt Guardsmen down from the Summit by staying open for longer hours and offering a special military rate.

Pettri said her business has doubled since the Jamboree began. She had hoped for more. She said Jamboree organizers had said they would give her laundromat the official contract to wash all the clothes from event attendees.

Pettri had planned to hire more employees from the area and to keep the doors open all night to wash hundreds of dirty Scout uniforms. But at the last minute, she said, organizers decided to hire laundry trucks that feature washers and dryers for Scouts to use.

She said she does have one related contract to wash clothes -- about 10 bags daily -- for the Boy Scout Office of Philanthropy.

The adventure industry, on the other hand, has several formal contracts to serve the Boy Scouts. Many adventures companies have maintained a steady stream of customers.

Class VI Rafting, for example, has seen about 30 percent more customers since the Jamboree began, said Arnold, who founded and now co-owns Class VI. According to Arnold, the company sent about 800 regular tourists and 1,000 Boy Scouts down the New River on Saturday.

Arnold was pleased with the boost. As a member of the original Jamboree planning committee, he said he had a more "realistic" projection for the profits that he would receive from the event.

ACE Adventure Resort has also has a steady stream of visitors, including about 5,000 boy scouts, according to Beth Gill, the resort's director of marketing. 

"We thought it was going to be a little bit busier," Gill said.

Reach Laura Reston at laura.reston@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.


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