By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Daily Sun
BERLIN-GORHAM — Some store and restaurant owners saw a significant jump in activity over the Camp RZR weekend, but others were disappointed.
As expected, area motel and hotel rooms were filled.
A couple from Grand Rapids, Mich., said while pumping gas on Sunday at the Lowe’s, they’d liked the cabin they’d rented at the Mount Jefferson View on Route 2 in Randolph.
“We think this area is beautiful and everyone’s been very friendly,” the husband said. “We’ve had a great time.”
Charles Jumpre, who owns the Gorham House of Pizza (GHOP) on Route 2, said his restaurant, which also serves gyros, had had a terrific weekend.
“We didn’t get caught up in the advance RZR hysteria, but we put on extra staff and ordered extra supplies,” Jumpre said. “Successful festivals will help bring more people to the area on their own, even when there are no special events. The area has trail access; and it’s clean, beautiful and quiet, compared to places like Portsmouth and Exeter. We need to continue to promote the area.”
Shayla Bisson who works at Toni’s Pizza on Main Street in downtown Berlin said that the restaurant hadn’t gained any customers over the weekend. “But it was cool to see all the traffic going by,” she said.
Maureen Patry, co-owner of both Maureen’s Boutique in downtown Berlin and Vintage Junky on the Berlin-Gorham Road, had different experiences at these shops.
A number of four-wheeler customers came into her Main Street store on the first two days of the weekend, especially on Saturday — a raw chilly early autumn day — when many visitors realized they hadn’t packed warm clothes. They bought hats, mittens and heavy sweatshirts. The store isn’t open on Sundays.
“The ATV short-sleeved mud T-shirts that had jumped off the shelf in August just weren’t warm enough for this weekend,” Patry explained.
Few new customers came over the threshold at her second-hand shop, however.
The experience of her mother, Wanda Lacasse, co-owner of 46 Wight St. Antiques on Route 110, was in sharp contrast. ATVers eagerly shopped and bought items on Friday and Saturday on their way to the park and then picked up them up on Sunday on their way out of town.
Patry pointed out that she and her family had had a wonderful time at Saturday night’s Big & Rich concert and fireworks, taking the shuttle bus to and from what she described as a “spectacular and professionally presented event.”
Circle K, which sells Irving gas and convenience store items south of the Cleveland Bridge doubled its business, exulted manager Kelley Flood.
“Business has been up with the City’s other Circle K pumps shut down to replace tanks (although its convenience store was busy over the weekend) and the Big Apple torn down to make way for a new facility, but this busy weekend’s numbers were off the charts,” Flood said.
Tourists found their way to the Family Dollar store, reported store manager Wendy Whitehouse. Its new location, accessible from both Main and Pleasant Streets, has boosted sales, and this weekend was no exception. ATVers and other tourists are very pleasant and enthusiastic about the area, Whitehouse said.
Penny Binette, co-owner of the Valley Creek Eatery, said that it only picked up an additional 10 percent in sales.
“Almost everything took place up at the park,” she said, complaining that the city had allowed unlicensed vendors and local residents to cook and sell food at nearby informal and uninspected venues. “It’s not fair; everyone should have to pay rooms and meals tax,” Binette said.
Jericho Motorsports, with its Route 110 location near the park entrance, helped a lot of RZR Festival customers, changing flat tires and fixing ATVs so they could get back on the trail, said owner Randy Cicchetto. “We sold a lot of accessories, including jackets, sweatshirts and gloves,” he said.
Cicchetto said that he has been in business at that location for nearly 10 years and had played a key role in making ATV events at Jericho a success.
He has just sold the thriving business, which includes one of the nation’s top Arctic Cat franchises, to a couple of locals but said he isn’t quite ready to reveal their names.
“My wife is living in Loudon and going back and forth has been difficult,” Cicchetto explained.
Six-plus-year employee Tucker Riendeau has agreed to stay on.
Bob Chapman opened up the area for "dry camping" next door to Jericho Motorsports, until recently the site of the Bass Shoe building that he razed and cleaned up. Chapman said he rented porta-potties and hired temporary staff at both the Bass site, large enough to accommodate 160 RVs and motor homes, and alongside the former Car Freshener building, where 70 could park. Only about 40 RVs parked on the Bass site.
“I only made back half my short-term expenses,” he said, noting that he handed over the weekend operations to his right-hand-man Mike Stirling and his son Jesse.
“I also worked as a parking attendant and met a lot of people as they parked with us or ate at one of the onsite vendors,” Chapman said.
“The extensive work we did to the Bass property was done, of course, for its future uses and not for the ATV event,” he explained. “I see multiple opportunities to help some businesses — new and established — expand on the site. The greatest opportunity is for the development of a hotel at the trailhead at Jericho. The motels and hotels in Gorham were swamped this weekend, and there is definitely a need for additional hospitality services in the area, especially on Jericho Road.
“I even became the newest ATV enthusiast,” Chapman continued. “I took my first ride this weekend, and I’m interested in getting my grandkids into a riding course. I’m going to purchase some ATVs for the family to use.”
Chapman touted the other developments taking place on Route 110.
“I’m thrilled with the new campground and the new restaurant being developed further up the road, which will significantly improve the area and greatly increase Berlin’s ability to handle hundreds of visitors with world-class food, services and accommodations, he said. “This will create a center for visitors that will attract a year-round crowd to Jericho.”