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Popular tourist shops are seeing more business, but it's not enough

Eden Village Motel & Cottages and Cool As A Moose gift shop are hopeful more visitors continue to come to Bar Harbor

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Pick a year, any year, and the second week of August would be one of the busiest times of the season for Bar Harbor stores and shops. But, 2020 is not a normal year.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across Maine in late March and April, business owners in Bar Harbor began to worry. When out of state visitors were ordered to stay away from Maine or quarantine for two weeks, they began to panic.

“April and May were pretty much dead," Cool As A Moose Store Manager John Bench said.

The town was quiet for a few months as every business began the summer season losing money, even as more visitors starting coming to town, it wasn't enough.

Lena Hatch and Lisa Preble are two of the co-owners of Eden Village Motel & Cottages in Bar Harbor.

"We're still down, but only 58% now, compared to 95%," Hatch said.

The two California natives bought the property because they knew what kind of revenue tourists generate, especially in the hospitality industry.

The two added that rooms are normally booked solid in July, August, and most of September. Making enough money in those few months to cover expenses in the late fall and winter.

Credit: NCM

“[This year] we had to give back about $58,000 in cancellations," Hatch said.

But the friendly attitude of the owners and employees is still present.

“I think the guests like the personal touch and they really like to hear a lot of the local stuff," Preble added.

Credit: NCM

Cleanliness has always been a priority for Hatch and Preble even before the pandemic. Now, Preble said, all paper products are switched out before every guest and everything is sanitized.

Back downtown, Bench said not having as many customers was an issue but the biggest struggle was finding workers.

“Our foreign students couldn’t come over, the J1 kids, college kids just weren’t coming to town to work because they weren’t sure what was going to happen so frankly, we had to rely on a lot more locals this year," he said.

Credit: NCM

To make sure tourists keep visiting the town, Bench added people need to remain diligent about safety. His shop has one door to enter, and another to exit. Customer capacity is limited and no one is allowed inside without a mask.

“As Dr. Shah said yesterday, there are no cases in Bar Harbor, and we are the busiest spot in Maine right now," Bench said.

To allow Bar Harbor business owners to salvage more of the season, visitors need to keep coming and follow all safety precautions.