Businesses Look Anxiously To Fall Foliage Season

10/07/11 5:30PM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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VPR/Nancy Eve Cohen
Joan White from Rhode Island looks on as her husband Paul takes a photograph of the view at Hogback Mountain Gift Shop in Marlboro.

(Host) Businesses that rely on tourism say this weekend and next are critical to their bottom line.

Despite the damage caused by Irene, the promise of bright foliage is keeping the tourists coming.

As VPR's Nancy Cohen reports, this is a big change from six weeks ago.

(Cohen) Rewind, back to the end of August. Normally the cars are lined up here at the Hogback Mountain Gift Shop in Marlboro because it offers something most shops don't have.

(Thelma Boyd) "On good days you can see about a hundred mile view."

(Cohen) Thelma Boyd sat behind the cash register on that quiet late August day.

(Boyd) "Without the traffic you don't have the business, but we're still open in case they come."

(Cohen) Well, they're coming now. Maybe not as many as years past. But here on Hogback there's a steady stream.

Outside the store Bill Phillips from Maryland is putting a quarter in the pedestal-mounted binoculars and scans the hilltops for some color.

(Phillips) "Yeah I'm seeing mostly green with a little bit of yellow and orange."

(Cohen) Phillips blames the recent wet weather for the muted colors.

So do John and Barbara Plank, from England. They're not sure if tropical storm Irene helped dull the colors. The only Irene -related snafu so far?  Their journey on Route 100.

(Plank) "Just this side of Jamaica  when the road was closed we had to detour, but we found our way though."

(Cohen) Despite the inconvenience the Planks are struck by the friendliness of Vermonters, but they've also seen the worst of it. They're spending two nights in Wilmington.

(Plank) "What would you tell people? Don't be put off the states are coping."

(Cohen) That's what Ed Metcalfe wants to hear. He owns the Hogback Mountain Gift Shop . Inside there are about 20 flavors of fudge and just about anything with a Vermont theme, including a moose crossing Frisbee,

(Metcalfe) "For us this is a huge huge time for us in our business we do about 15-20 percent of oour year's business here in four weeks."

(Cohen) Metcalfe says business is better than it was a few weeks ago, but he estimates it's about 25 percent down from previous years. Many visitors say, though, Irene didn't get in their way.

(Janet Carruthers) "Didn't stop us at all."

(Cohen) Janet Carruthers and her husband are here from Ontario to celebrate their 40th anniversary-Vermont style.

(Carruthers) "We've taken a lot of pictures of covered bridges,  church steeples, we've tried  a lot of pumpkin fudge."

(Cohen) Nearby Nancy Gartshore from Pennsylvania is taking home an armful of Vermont.

(Gartshore) "Maple sugar and I think I'm going to get that one chipmunk. (Squeak) He makes noise."

(Cohen) Gartshore and her husband traveled from Pennsylvania and plan to spend the night. They've already stopped in Wilmington

(Gartshore) "Ahhh. Devastated. Devastated. I feel bad for those people."

(Cohen) That empathy is one reason Gartshore and her husband are visiting.

(Gartshore) "That's why we're up here trying to support them a little. Because we had come up two years ago and we loved it up here."

(Cohen) Although Irene damaged the landscaped it hasn't scarred the loyalty of tourists who have visited Vermont before.

For VPR News I'm Nancy Cohen.

(Host) Irene flood recovery coverage is supported in part by the VPR Journalism Fund.

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