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Businesses satisfied as events boost bottom line

By Emery Cowan Herald staff writer

Saturday may have been the big day for the thousands of riders in the 42nd Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, but for business owners, Sunday was the most memorable of the three-day weekend.

The combination of the pro-criterium course that wove through downtown, the thousands of race-related visitors ready to relax and enjoy Durango and the already-large wave of Memorial Day visitors made for a stellar day, downtown business owners said.

Business was much better than normal at Magpie’s Newsstand Cafe where employees were cranking out lots of sandwiches and other lunch items Sunday as people sat outside to watch the criterium, co-owner Tom Mulligan said. To have the criterium right outside his door was great for business, Mulligan said.

The weekend traffic left him encouraged for summer, Mulligan said.

The foot traffic at the Durango Welcome Center on Sunday was about three times what the center saw a week before, said Grace Shepard, a concierge at the welcome center and group sales employee with the Durango Area Tourism Office.

It was the biggest weekend this year, but that’s no surprise, Shepard said. The visitors’ center guest book from this weekend includes entries from Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Australia and Germany. Most people who came into the Welcome Center were tourists not in town for the Iron Horse events, indicating there were a lot of people passing through for other reasons beside the race, she said.

At Mountain Bike Specialists, race participants kept the door swinging almost constantly Friday and Saturday, General Manager John Glover said. He estimated 1,000 people came into the store Friday, compared to a normal customer count of 50 to 80.

“It’s like hosting the biggest bike party in the world,” Glover said. By the end of the weekend, some of his staff members were losing their voices, he said. Typically, the store puts on a sale, featuring items that will be meaningful and useful to people who tend already to be well-stocked in the cycling category. Durango-oriented memorabilia, bike-part replacements and sports gels were big sellers, he said.

Mountain Bike Specialists sold out of all of its local trail maps, signaling visitors were planning to explore the area’s other outdoor amenities as well.

“They’re digging Durango,” Glover said.

Businesses were hesitant to say whether this Memorial Day weekend was noticeably better or worse than last year. Durango Central Reservations, a booking agency for activities and lodging in the area, reported that revenue from activities and lodging bookings was about the same as last year, said Kory Samson, a sales-marketing coordinator. Revenue from only lodging bookings was up 20 percent compared with last year though, which could indicate that there were more first-time Iron Horse participants who were looking for lodging but not necessarily other activities packages, Samson said.

The average stay of weekend visitors who booked through Durango Central Reservations stayed 2.33 nights, he said.

By Monday, businesses were seeing the buzz die down as most out-of-towners headed home. At Mountain Bike Specialists, this year’s Iron Horse memorabilia was already on sale, with 2013 Iron Horse Bicycle Classic water bottles marked down from $10 to $4.


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