Last week’s total solar eclipse darkened the mid-Willamette Valley, and it might have helped push some businesses into the black, as well.
Shop and restaurant representatives said they saw a surge in sales thanks to thousands of visitors who flocked to Oregon for the astronomical event.
“Businesses were busy, restaurants had waiting lists. It was an amazing day for downtown Albany,” said Lise Grato, executive director of the Albany Downtown Association.
“People wanted to get their hands on memorabilia and eat and shop, shop, shop,” said Mary Pat Parker, executive director of Visit Corvallis.
“Businesses did great. The hotels were completely full,” Parker added.
Shelly Garrett, executive director of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, said that she hadn’t heard about a large boost in business for local shop owners, however.
Denny’s in Albany, near Interstate 5, saw two straight hours with a record-breaking guest count, said Ray Sassaman, general manager.
“Monday morning, from 4 a.m. until 2 in the afternoon, we were just slammed,” he added. “It was pretty rock-and-roll.”
Sassaman acknowledged that there was a lull in local traffic in the days leading up to the eclipse, as Albany area residents stayed home to avoid any potential problems. But Monday made up for the weak weekend.
Laughing Planet in downtown Corvallis also had a record-breaking day on Sunday, and was close to that amount on Monday. On both days, there was roughly double the usual amount of sales, said Laughing Planet regional manager John Huyck.
He added that Laughing Planet usually gets orders filled from vendors on Mondays, but moved that up anticipating a busy weekend. Saturday was business as usual, and he worried that the restaurant had over-ordered. “It worked out really well,” Huyck said.
Cloud Davidson, a Corvallis restauranteur and owner of the Downward Dog, the Salty Dog Tiki Bar & Kitchen, DeMaggio’s New York Pizza and Bombs Away Café in Corvallis, agreed that things were initially quiet, despite speculation about increased business trickling in starting Aug. 16.
“We planned on being very busy, but didn’t see anything extra until Sunday lunch,” he added, in an email.
The action picked up with plenty of tourists who were in great moods and ready to have fun, Davidson said.
Running Princess Apparel in downtown Corvallis had an increase in foot traffic on Sunday and then a huge jump the next day.
“Monday, it was just people hanging out until it wasn’t quite such a long line of cars getting over the bridges,” said Tracy Byers, vice president of business development for the company.
In the hours after the eclipse, Corvallis had so much congestion it looked like game day traffic for an Oregon State University football game, officials said.
Byers said that Running Princess in Corvallis and its Bend location sold out of several hundred eclipse tank tops.
“People wanted something to remember being in Corvallis and being here for the eclipse,” Byers added.
Over at Going Green Albany, people were looking for a different kind of Oregon souvenir.
“We had lots of out-of-towners for four or five days prior to the eclipse, every day, coming from everywhere,” said Sarah Whitely, owner of the recreational marijuana dispensary.
“A lot of people were driving through, and we were the closest one to the freeway,” she added.
Whitely estimated that sales were nearly double for her pot shop thanks to customers from California, Washington, Idaho, Canada and elsewhere.
“If they were here in Oregon, they wanted to enjoy everything Oregon has to offer,” Whitely said.
Grato said that some downtown businesses that are normally closed on Mondays, such as First Burger, were open for the eclipse crowd.
And while businesses got a boost this weekend, there could be a long-lasting ripple effect for tourism.
“With the hospitality that visitors enjoyed, we’ll certainly have them and their friends coming back for years to come,” Grato said.
Parker agreed that there will be some rollover from eclipse watchers who want to see more of Oregon and all the natural beauty the state has to offer.
“‘People are so nice here.’ I heard that over and over, how friendly we are,’” Parker said.
Garrett said that based on after-eclipse traffic at the Lebanon chamber, there might be more than return visitors to the area. “We had several people come here looking at buying real estate,” she said.