The summer of 2019 was a great one for some Jackson businesses, pretty good for some and a bit off for others.
The good news for all was that though the season started a bit cold and wet, there were no huge wildfires during the next few months to cloud the sky and keep tourists away. And September seems to be getting stronger every year for some businesses.
At the Antler Inn, part of the Town Square Inns group, some days in September were busier than days in June and August.
Overall, Town Square Inns founder Clarene Law said, “We had a very good summer, about the same as the previous summer, which was a good summer.”
At Merry Piglets, manager Tracey Joralemon said, “I feel like last summer was busier, but it was still definitely the crazy downtown scene.”
June was “not quite as crazy” as the previous June, she said, but “September is just like one of the busiest months, and that continued this year.”
Events like the Fall Arts Festival and the Jackson Fall Classic soccer tournament, are why, she said.
“There’s just so much going on,” Joralemon said.
Kristi Steiert, general manager at Huff House Inn and Cabins, said occupancy was only slightly down at the East Deloney property, but “we found it much harder to get heads in the beds at both the Pony Express and the Huff House,” which are under common local ownership.
“Actually, January to July, we were down in revenue every month at the Pony,” she said. “Additionally, it was hard to get the rates we’ve become accustomed to. We worked harder for a [slightly] less end result in terms of ADR,” or average daily rate.
Steiert said she’d prefer that September events not be “stacked on top of each other.” If they could be spread out over the month it’d be better for businesses of all types, she said.
It was a healthy shopping season for some stores.
“We had a busy summer — on par with last summer,” Skinny Skis co-owner Phil Leeds said.
With trail access limited until late June, things got off to a somewhat slower start, he said, but once the weather and trails stabilized the store was busy.
“With the exception of a couple local one-day wildfires, we were really lucky to avoid some of the massive wildfires — and smoke — of years past,” Leeds said.
A new location contributed to a “fabulous” summer for Penny Lane, said owner Andi Keenan Dornan, who moved the clothing and gift shop in the spring from Scott Lane to South Glenwood.
“This is our first season in the ‘downtown’ area, and I could not be happier with the reception,” she said. “There were browsers and plenty of shoppers.”
The key to converting a browser to a shopper, she said, was to have more small, affordable gift items.
“Not everyone who walks into Penny Lane wants to get undressed and try on clothes, but they will pick up pieces of locally made pottery for $35 or a fun trucker hat for $30,” she said. “I had many, many more of those types of transactions in this location.
“I can understand that if a family is visiting Jackson Hole and they are paying big money for lodging and dining they probably don’t have as much disposable cash for shopping. I think it’s important to keep that in mind and try to have something affordable for those folks to purchase as a souvenir.”
Roam Mercantile enjoyed an influx of shoppers, too.
“We had a good amount of foot traffic in,” said owner Grace Peck, who relocated her business from one spot on South Glenwood to another. “I would say comparable to previous summers. It helped that our move was right across the street, so our repeat customers had a short distance to travel to our new location.”
Pizzeria Caldera’s location at 20 W. Broadway, in the heart of the Town Square area, is key to the restaurant’s continued success, giving it lots of walk-in traffic. But Chris Hansen, who owns the business with his wife, noted that people’s choices of where to eat have increased.
“There’s a lot more restaurants now than there were four years ago downtown,” he said.
Hansen described this past summer as “decent.” Business was about on par with last summer, which was down from the big summers of 2017, when people flocked to Jackson for the eclipse, and 2016, the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.
“When it’s not too crazy,” Hansen said, “it’s easier for our staff to maintain a higher level of customer service and keep guests happier. ... We are able to provide a better experience when it’s not crushingly busy.”
September continues to be a healthy month for the pizzeria.
“Even though we’re down over the summers of 2016 and 2017, our September business is on par with where we’ve been for the past five years,” he said. “I’ve always said I’d be happy with 12 Septembers per year over the seasonal fluctuation.”
It was a “great” summer, said Graeme Swain, who owns the downtown Jackson restaurant Gather and the National Museum of Wildlife Art restaurant Palate with his wife, Christine Mara Swain.
Swain said he was waiting to see tourism figures to determine all the factors.
He credits his staff and their consistency of service — “I’m a proud dad,” he said — as well as local tourism promotion efforts.
“We live in a tourist town,” he said. “And those of us who make our living off of that — amen to that.”
Gather, at 72 S. Glenwood, benefits being the “closest thing to the Center for the Arts for food and dining,” he said. The fitness chain OrangeTheory went into the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, and “we’re kind of lucky it’s not a restaurant,” he said.
“Being off Town Square has its benefits, and we’re starting to see that,” Swain said. “There’s that saturation when people see all those people standing around on Restaurant Row [North Cache]. ... They look and say, ‘I can’t get in.’”