They came to the Adirondacks, but did they spend much money?

Neal Oza, an engineer from Washington DC, watches as the moon begins to eclipse the sun over Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Emily Russell/NCPR)

SARANAC LAKE — It’s difficult to measure the true economic impact of the eclipse in the Adirondacks, but if you talk to some people in business, you get a better sense of the scope.

“We were sold out for two nights straight,” said Myra Rondeau, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Saranac, “which is probably the best April we’ve seen so far at the hotel here, so it was great.”

People traveled from around the county and around the world to watch the eclipse in the Adirondacks.

“We had some people coming from Dubai, we had a couple from Mexico, and West Coast — we had a lot of people from the West Coast — but Dubai and Mexico were probably the farthest than I can think of,” Rondeau said.

Monday, April 8 was the best sales day ever for the hotel’s restaurant. They also sold street food that day during Saranac Lake’s Solar Fest event.

“We had three food vendors and all we did was tacos- total tacos- and I think we sold almost 200 tacos that day and people came in and got to enjoy Saranac Lake,” Rondeau said.

Other hotels, motels, and short-term rentals around the Adirondacks were also booked full, some a year in advance. Using that and other economic data, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism estimates that Essex County alone saw a $2.2 million boost in business compared to the same time last year.

One local restaurant in Saranac Lake that was busy all weekend was the Blue Moon Cafe. Owner Kenny Fontana said it was overwhelming at times. “We had three days where everybody really worked 12 to 13 hours.”

There was a line out the cafe’s door on the day of the eclipse. Fontana estimates they experienced a 300% boost in sales. He credits his staff for working nonstop and the customers for being patient. That kind of bump in business will make up for weeks of breaking even.

“Being in business in the Adirondacks, you learn to live with the off seasons and basically manage the poor stretches of business and make hay when the sun shines,” Fontana said.

But the haymakers may have largely been hotels and restaurants. A few people who own a convenience shop in the area didn’t want to talk on the record, but said most people who came into their shop just wanted to use the restroom during the eclipse. They believed the region and state overhyped the event.

Corey Rothamel, co-owner of Blue Line Sports in downtown Saranac Lake, said the shop experienced just a slight uptick in business, not the economic impact that some restaurants and hotels experienced.

“Being a sporting goods — and at this time of year primarily a fishing store — most of the tourists who were here, it wasn’t the items they were looking for,” said Rothamel, including eclipse t-shirts and other souvenirs Rothamel said while they didn’t get a big bump in business, there was a lot of foot traffic, both out on the street and in her shop, which is unusual this time of year. Spring is generally slow for businesses in the Adirondacks, but state data confirms that many people were traveling around New York to see the eclipse. Highway tolls were up 21% and gas and convenience shop sales almost doubled.

Rothamel said they tried to take advantage of that traffic in Saranac Lake, despite less than ideal conditions outdoors.

“It is a rough time of year,” Rothamel said. “April is not the prettiest time to try and encourage people, so we were really telling people that there’s a lot more to offer, come back at another time when things are blooming and it’s lovely weather.”

That might be a tough sell for visitors from Mexico or Dubai, but you never know. The economic impact of the eclipse could still ripple out for months or years to come.


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