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Race generates enthusiasm, more sales for some businesses than others

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Area merchants say they’re thrilled the Tour of California came through Auburn. But the race generated more business for some than for others. In Downtown Auburn, Tango frozen yogurt had its best day yet — a huge increase from a usual Sunday, owner Lisa Swisley said. Swisley estimates she sold about 700 frozen yogurts, attracting race enthusiasts who gathered in Central Square waiting for the Tour to pass by and viewing the action on the nearby Jumbotron screen. “I opened a little earlier and was pretty busy by about 10:30 or 11 a.m.,” she said Monday. The whole weekend was good, with the Auburn Home Show, Cruise Nite and the Splash Dogs competition also contributing to bringing in customers, said Carol Isaacson, co-owner of High Street’s Depoe Bay Coffee Company. “(On race day), it was really exciting and we did get a lot of customers in here,” she said. “We were very busy until about 11:30 a.m. After that I could have closed. It was wonderful to watch (the race), seeing all the cyclists.” On Lincoln Way, Auburn Running Company opened on Sunday just because of the race — normally the store has Sunday hours only from Memorial Day to Labor Day, employee June Montuori said. “”We had an average Sunday that we would have during the summer,” she said. In Old Town, Reese Browning, who owns two eateries, saw a mixed impact. “We had a really good day at the Dessert Café — definitely better than normal,” he said. “It was even better than the previous Sunday, which was Mother’s Day and a good day as well. But (Old Town Pizza) saw a little bit of a decline in business. I’m not exactly sure why.” The crowds were there, as expected, but most watched the race and then left, he said. “Even though business was down for Old Town Pizza, it was just a great day,” Browning said. “I haven’t heard any negatives at all. We’re just hoping they come through again next year. The more experience we get with it, we’ll make adjustments so it works business-wise.” At nearby Sierra Moon Goldsmiths, co-owner John Lynch created some momentum with specially designed jewelry pieces reflecting the day’s cycling theme. And he opened the store a couple of hours earlier than usual. “Generally speaking, it was better,” he said about business. “We were busy in the morning, then we closed for an hour during the race. People just left right away after the race. But we got busy again about 2 p.m. and stayed busy the rest of the day.” His bicycle jewelry turned out to be an eye-catcher. “We had a couple from North Carolina who purchased one of the bike charms,” Lynch said. “They were really excited and said they hadn’t seen anything like that — and they follow these bike races all over the United States.” Lynch said he had a good mix of bike fans and regular customers. “I’d love to see (the race) come through again,” he said. “This being the first year, we were flying a little bit by the seat of our pants. … I think it is important to promote the event by having cycling-specific items. We can learn from this what we need to do and need to add. It was a lot of fun. The energy down here was fabulous.” Business was on a par with other Sundays at Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery, but the enthusiasm and excitement generated by the race made it a special day, owner Alexandra Carnahan said, “It didn’t hurt my business,” she said. “A lot of people came into town, so it was great exposure.” In Bowman, the impact of the race on business depended on location. “It killed us for the first three hours, then we had a busy spurt for about an hour,” said Marty Ruthman, owner of Baskin Robbins in the Auburn Ravine (Raley’s) Center. “Our sales were about 30 percent lower than normal.” People said they were avoiding the extra traffic, he explained. At The Burrito Shop next door, Manager Efraim Contreras said the hoped-for extra customers didn’t materialize. “We were expecting to be busy, but it wasn’t that much different than a usual day,” he said. Businesses on Bowman Road, just across Interstate 80, had a ringside view of the race and some saw added sales, too. The patio in front of Foothill Liquor store was filled with residents from the nearby neighborhood, who walked over with lawn chairs in hand. “We had extra customers buying ice cream, water and cameras,” employee Kelley Beall said. But not many ventured next door to Tribal Weaver. Nevertheless, it was an exciting day, employee Lindsay Brosveen said. “It was a celebration,” Brosveen said. “Cars on the freeway even pulled over and stopped on the side of the road (to watch the cyclists go by).” Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.