By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — Despite having varying business results on the day, Cooperstown business owners and employees had mostly good things to say about President Barack Obama’s visit Thursday, and its potential effect on the upcoming tourist season.
For the Smith family and Spurbeck’s Grocery, Obama’s visit to Cooperstown made them optimistic about its impact on the future.
“It’s nice when he (Obama) gets around,” said Dot Smith, who, with her husband, Roger, owns the business. “I wish he could be out more where the people are.”
Speaking about an hour before Obama arrived, Smith said that Obama’s impending visit hadn’t increased their business, which is located on Railroad Avenue, away from the village’s downtown.
“We’ve been really quiet here today … for a Thursday,” said Smith, who noted that most of the people who came to see the president were gathered downtown.
Smith said that she thought that people were either heading downtown, or avoiding the village entirely. The president spoke at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located in downtown Cooperstown.
“We’ve had people say ... ‘We’re going home ‘cause we don’t want to be here for all the hoopla,’” said Smith.
A similar observation was related by Trisha Walker, an employee at Rudy’s Liquor Store.
“Everybody doesn’t want to be in town because they’re worried about the traffic issues,” said Walker.
Randy Smith, son of Roger and Dot Smith, said that he sees the president’s visit as a business positive.
“I just think that it’s going to be ultimately really good for the tourism,” said Smith, who said that the visit will bring more attention to Cooperstown and that he hoped it would get covered on ESPN.
He also said that he didn’t agree with complaints he’d heard that the visit was disruptive.
“You’ve got to think bigger picture, longer term,” said Smith. “It’s gonna only … help the (tourist) season.”
Chris Grady, one of the owners of Stagecoach Coffee, was similarly positive about the president’s visit.
“Regardless of whatever politics you believe in, I think it’s phenomenal that he’s willing to appreciate our area and promote tourism,” said Grady, who noted that there were quite a few places the president could go to promote tourism. “I’m really happy he’s decided to give accolades to Cooperstown.”
Grady also said that business at Stagecoach Coffee was doing well that day.
“It’s been extremely busy,” said Grady. “The mood seems pretty good.”
Stagecoach Coffee is on Pioneer Street not far from the Hall.
Grady also echoed Smith in his description of some people choosing to avoid the village altogether.
“A lot of the locals seemed to come in early this morning,” said Grady. “I think a lot of people felt like they weren’t going to be able to move within the village, so they decided to stay home.”
Carmen Esposito’s Italian Ice is another business that is located in downtown Cooperstown. With the crowds lining up to enter the HOF and see the president practically at Carmen Esposito’s door, followed by those waiting outside to protest or catch a glimpse of the commander-in-chief, the business had a good day.
“Today we’ve been busier than we would have,” said Matthew DeVincenzo, owner of Carmen Esposito’s. “It’s a good thing all around.”
He also expressed a favorable view on the visit in general.
“Any publicity, any hype for the town is always positive,” said DeVincenzo. “We look forward to any positive outcome as far as … tourism.”
Nick Slentz, an employee at Schneider’s Bakery, which is farther away from the HOF than Carmen Esposito’s or Stagecoach Coffee, described the day as a business wash. He said that it was slower in the morning, but that protesters helped make up for the slow start later on in the day.
“Honestly, it didn’t really affect anything,” said Slentz.
As for his own thoughts on the visit, Slentz, a recent graduate of the State University College at Fredonia, with a political science major and psychology minor, sounded enthusiastic.
“I think it’s wonderful, I really do,” said Slentz, who said it was also cool to have Secret Service people in the bakery.
A positive note was also struck by Randy Smith.
“(I thought) the sitting president of the United States is standing in Cooperstown,” said Smith. “That’s gotta be a good thing for us.”