business picking up on Ocracoke
Ocracoke is returning to about what people expect at this time of the
Many business owners report that they have seen more customers since
Highway 12 reopened on Hatteras Island on Oct. 11, though not in the
numbers they had before Hurricane Irene came through seven weeks ago.
“This was the best week since we had the hurricane,” noted Rufus Keel,
owner of the Sunglass Shop, which relies heavily on day-tripper
traffic. “This past weekend felt like there was life on the
island. I had to wait at a stop sign for tourists to pass.”
Business owners definitely have noticed increased traffic in the
village and beyond.
“I returned today from Norfolk and traffic on the highway slowed me
down,” noted B.J. Oelschlegel, owner of the Slushy Stand, which sells
ice cream and coffee. “And the Hatteras Ferry was full.”
Her ice cream shop, too, had steady business through the weekend,
although she does not know if that was due to more day-trippers or from
folks attending the three weddings that took place on the island over
Business has definitely picked up at the Fudge Shop in Community
Square, noted Keith Knox, though he couldn’t say by how much.
SMacnally’s, a restaurant on the harbor, reported a little more
day-tripper business, too.
Mickey Roberson, owner of Teach’s Hole Pirate Exhibit, noticed an
upturn in business immediately upon the opening of Highway 12, though
her daily numbers are not as high as in the high tourist season.
“Our daily numbers were up before the hurricane from a down year last
year,” she noted, though she declined give specific numbers.
The end of August through September is when she and all the other
businesses on the island make their sales to carry them through the
winter, and that came to a screeching halt with the hurricane and its
“We really needed those two months that we lost,” said Heather Johnson,
who works in Books to be Red on Schoolhouse Road.
Betty and George Chamberlain, owners of Captain’s Landing, noted that
with the difficulty some vacationers may have had getting ferry
reservations in the last month, those people have gone elsewhere and
that business was lost to the island.
But now, it’s just kind of typical, or maybe a little less, for later
Nevertheless, after the last six weeks, business owners are glad to
have whatever customers that make the trip here.
Some of the shops closest to the ferry noted that they did have
customers while the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries were the only
means on and off the island and Dare County routed folks going to
Hatteras through Ocracoke.
“We had a captive audience,” said Mickey Baker, owner of Mermaid’s
Folly, about the folks who hung out in the village waiting for the
ferry. “We had to sell them on Ocracoke.”
“I’m amazed we’ve had any business at all,” noted Kathy Scarborough,
owner of Over the Moon gift shop. “Obviously, it’s been slow,
but some people I talked to made a real effort to get to here,
rearranging their schedules, and that’s good.”
Sally Lunsford, an associate in the Down Creek Gallery, has talked to
several day-trippers in recent days.
“People have come down from Waves, Hatteras, and Rodanthe,” she said.
“They’ve extended their stays from up the beach to here on Ocracoke
because they discovered Ocracoke after coming through here.”
Liz O’Mara was one such day-tripper visiting the gallery from Salvo.
“We love it here,” she said.
Cindy Gaskins, in the Harborside Inn shop, said business is a bit
better this week but not as busy as it usually is for this time of the
year. She has noticed that October in recent years has been
busier than September, probably because of all the storms that arise in
late August and September.
“It wasn’t just the storm. It’s the economy, too,” she said.
“But we’re blessed.”
Businesses might also feel a boost from employees of Twiddy Realty in
Corolla -- 20 of them are on the island on all-expenses paid trip from
Ross Twiddy, marketing director, explained that each year, if the
company reaches certain goals, full-time employees are rewarded with
the chance to take a trip.
Some years it’s been Rome, Belize, or, in one year, New Orleans after
This year, Ocracoke and Washington, D.C., were the choices for the 82
eligible employees of his company, he said.
The company pays for room and board and give them walking-around money.
“We wanted to support Ocracoke and let our employees relax and enjoy
your beautiful beaches,” Twiddy said.
Tuesday, Oct. 18, was a warm and sunny day, and there was evidence that
day-trippers were returning to Ocracoke.
In the early afternoon, four stacking lanes at the Hatteras village
ferry docks were full with vehicles waiting to go to Ocracoke.