Visitor comments show town made good impression
Damon Howell / Photo Rolling in - Two of the more than 1,000 cyclists who came through as part of the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG).
More than a thousand cyclists have come and gone, leaving little trace other than extra cash in local registers and hopefully taking away good memories.
Chamber President Gerry Nechvatal said as the host/organizer they had two goals: (1) a significant direct financial impact for our members and the community and (2) make a good lasting impression so that someone might want to come back to visit, buy a home or open a business.
“This was not a money maker for us,” said Nechvatal. “We did it to support the community and we achieved our goals.”
Nechvatal cited several examples of the extra revenue. First the Woodbridge Inn, which normally doesn’t serve dinner on Mondays was open and crowded. Another restaurant reported to him they did three times their normal Monday business.
At Designs on Main, owner Carrie Roland said they too opened on Monday especially for BRAG. Roland said the immediate sales were “like a very good weekday” but not as strong as a Christmas shopping day.
However, Roland, who is the head of the Chamber’s tourism committee, expected future payoffs for her boutique and the town from visitors who found Jasper for the first time. Roland said there were riders from all over the region, including many from nearby areas who had never been to Jasper before.
“This put Jasper on the map for a lot of people,” she said. “Several people from surrounding areas, in driving distance, said they would be back, maybe to JeepFest or Marble Festival.”
Roland said the riders expressed appreciation for the little touches that made them feel welcome, like the DJ on the corner as they came into town and volunteers out to greet people.
Roland also made one observation regarding locals that day. “There were more local people out walking on the street, walking to lunch. I think they just wanted to be part of the atmosphere downtown.”
She thought the more festive atmosphere with the DJ, music and food trucks was something downtown could work with on a regular basis.
Chamber volunteer Ralph Streeter, who spent part of the day driving shuttles, said there was visible evidence that riders and their families conducted business here – shopping bags coming back on the free shuttles.
“I gave a ride to one lady who had six bags from different stores. She said she loved all the boutiques,” he said.
Streeter, who owns HVAC Consulting and Design, said he had gone to just volunteer but ended up handing out a business card after one of the riders told them about a problem with their air conditioning.
“It was all totally positive,” he said. “I enjoyed it immensely, volunteering. I got to talk to people from Wisconsin and from my own home state Maryland. People from all over the country were here and it was just great talking to them.”
Nechvatal, Roland and Streeter all said they got great feedback from the riders.
“A lot of the riders told me that Jasper provided the best reception,” said Streeter. “The attention we gave to meet their needs. They were very thankful and it felt good hearing them saying it.”