August 21, 2007

RV rally leaves some hot, some cold

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) convention in Redmond last week appears to have produced a surge in business at a number of name-brand local businesses, but the event left others largely untouched.

Larger chain businesses seemed to benefit the most from the gathering of several thousand motor coach owners at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center.

Shari’s Restaurant on Odem Medo Road had double its usual business Aug. 13, the first day of the convention, and its business the next day was up a third, according to assistant manager Jeff Batty.

“We saw a little over 400 people and normally we’d see 240-230,” he said. “Usually events at the fairgrounds boost our business.”

Managers at Safeway and Fred Meyer wouldn’t comment specifically, but a Fred Meyer spokesperson said business had increased noticeably.

“I can tell you we have seen a significant, huge, increase in our grocery business while those people have been in town,” said Fred Meyer Spokesperson Melinda Merrill from Portland.

Business hadn’t risen much at the newly opened Red Dog Depot brewpub off Airport Way near the fairgrounds. Manager Garrett Wales said he’d seen some only some late traffic and a few extra meals at the newly opened restaurant, which is owned by Cascade Lakes Brewery.

“We haven’t noticed the big influx we expected,” he said.

Across the road at Applebee’s, business surged 40 to 50 percent, according to manager Joe’l Kofford. A national chain, Applebee’s has the advantage of familiarity for diners.

“It depends a lot on their experience from different stores throughout the nation,” he said. “But having a recognizable name does help.”

Many downtown businesses saw little business from the huge convention that brought several hundred Class A motor homes to town.

“We’ve seen some, but not a lot,” said Marty McNamee at Local Grounds in downtown Redmond. “In the past we’ve got more business from the venders. This year we didn’t get any from the venders.”

One exception was Britz Beads Design Center on Cascade Avenue.

“Yesterday was the best day I’ve ever had in four years,” said owner Sandi Britz.

But Britz had the advantage of an “in” at the convention -- a friend taught a beading class that included kits made up of supplies from her bead shop.

“I think one reason (my business did well) is a lot of people in motor homes do beading already because it takes a small amount of space,” she said. “Plus, people like to come to downtown areas once they unload their big motor homes.”

The FMCA convention brought 2,640 coaches to town with 5,200-5,300 people, according to Jerry Yeatts, director of convention and commercial services for the FMCA.

With vendors and set-up personnel, the total comes to about 7,500 people in town, he said.

Eric Sande, Redmond Chamber of Commerce executive director, said exhibitors and set-up personnel had filled most of the hotel rooms in Redmond.

According to Yeatts said the economic impact of the convention is estimated to be $5-$10 million. Sande said that number comes from business suveys done by FMCA after an event has finished.
Interestingly, Yeatts said the impact in states with a sales tax jumps to $15 to $30 million.
Both Yeatts and Sande said the FMCA is considering a return to Redmond in 2010.

-- Gary G. Newman

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