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Woods Hole Businesses Cope With Bridge On Top Of Slow Economy In Slow Season

Posted in: Falmouth News, Front Page Stories
Dec 12, 2008 - 1:22:37 PM
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FALMOUTH- Eric T. Gura, owner of Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole, stood under a canopy in front of his bakery yesterday morning and watched as cold rain drizzled on the empty sidewalk.
“What time is it?” he said, “Ten o’clock. It’s the coffee rush and there’s no one here.”
Mr. Gura, like restaurant owners all over Falmouth, is weathering both the wintery economy and the seasonal lull.
But Woods Hole restaurateurs have a bridge closed to ride out as well.
“It’s not helping,” said Mr. Gura, referring to the Eel Pond Bridge, which is under construction.
The bridge work does more than just keep cars from traveling down Water Street, Mr. Gura said; it disrupts pedestrian traffic as well. Many of his lunch customers work on the other side of the bridge, but now they do not come.
“If people have to go more than a few hundred feet out of their way they change their routines,” he said, alluding to the foot bridge that allows pedestrians to cross Eel Pond. “They fall out of habits,” he said.
Paul P. Moushigian, co-owner of Fishmonger Cafe, right next to the construction, has the additional challenge of this being his first year operating the Water Street establishment.
Mr. Moushigian and his partner, John R. Marderosian, also own Laureen’s restaurant on Main Street. Even with all the challenges, the men have committed to keeping Fishmonger open seven days a week, year-round.
Originally, the plan was to close for February and reopen in the spring. Now, Mr. Moushigian said, they plan to stay open so they can provide a service to the community. “It’s not about making money,” said Mr. Moushigian.
One concession they have made is replacing the summer menu with more thrifty winter fare. In the summer, some entrees go for $30, Mr. Moushigian explained; now the most expensive thing on the menu is $18.
Hugh F. Birmingham, owner of Coffee Obsession in Falmouth and Woods Hole, said his Woods Hole store business is slightly off this year.
Mr. Birmingham said they have added more retail items this year to help boost sales a little and they close at 5:30 PM, which is a little earlier than normal.
Mr. Birmingham thinks that people are budgeting money for small ticket items, like coffee, and cutting out  expenditures elsewhere.
Other restaurants and businesses in Woods Hole that traditionally close in the winter, closed much earlier this year.
At a Falmouth Board of Selectmen’s meeting in November, Selectman Kevin E. Murphy, who owns Shuckers World Famous Raw Bar and Cafe on Water Street, said he closed three weeks early this year because of the drop in business. He also said the restaurant Phusion closed early this year and the Woods Hole Market is closed for the winter.
At the same meeting, Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn said some people have the mistaken belief that Woods Hole is “closed down” because of the bridge construction. Ms. Flynn floated the idea that selectmen should suspend the Woods Hole meters for the winter or perhaps make them less expensive, like having a quarter last for an hour instead of 15 minutes.
Mr. Moushigian said he reimbursed customers for parking in the summer and he plans to continue the practice.
One Woods Hole restaurateur who has weathered many storms, both literally and metaphorically, is Donald A. Estes, the owner of the Landfall Restaurant.
Mr. Estes closed his restaurant at Thanksgiving, just as he has every winter since his father started the business in 1946. Mr. Estes said he saw a slight drop in business from this November to last.
But he said every year of the restaurant business poses a series of challenges. “We always have concerns,” Mr. Estes said.
For his part, Mr. Estes said he has faith that the bridge construction will be done by Memorial Day.
The Landfall has never been open in the winter, because it is built out over the water, and is not insulated, Mr. Estes said. If it were insulated, the building would float when the water level rose.
Mr. Estes remembered when the water level rose four or five years ago this weekend, when “there was this one little perfect storm and the water got right up into the restaurant, but that only lasted half an hour.”