Maybe it was fate that led Jane and Gary Ash to return to Greenport this summer for the second time in their lives.
Several years had passed since the Massachusetts couple’s first visit to the North Fork, which occurred, Ms. Ash recalled, on a particularly rainy May weekend when most of the businesses were closed. Since going to the beach was out of the question, the Ashes caught an early ferry out of Orient Point, returning home with plans to maybe revisit some day.
That day finally came in August when the Ashes, who are avid Studebaker collectors, traveled to Coram to purchase an engine for one of their cars. Wanting to give Greenport another go, they booked a room in the village and were pleasantly surprised by what they discovered.
“It was lively and fun,” Ms. Ash said. “What impressed us the most was how many people were out enjoying the evening. It was a great mix of people.”
The Ashes are not the only ones who discovered the charm of the North Fork this summer.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating impact on popular summer spots like Fire Island and parts of the Jersey Shore, those in the local tourism and hospitality industries are reporting one of the most successful summer seasons on record.
Greenporter Hotel owner Deborah Rivera Pittorino told The Suffolk Times in April that the hotel was already sold out for weekends through the summer months. The staff at the hotel said this week that the busy summer has now extended through September.
“Every weekend we had full occupancy,” said Greenporter employee Kim Rosen. “Even the next four weekends from now we are at full capacity.”
She said most of the visitors were coming from New York City and Connecticut – a trend that was reflected throughout the region.
“We have been seeing a lot of new visitors all across the North Fork,” said Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council and a board member of the East End Tourism Alliance. He credits the influx in part to positive coverage the area has received from national news organizations. Wineries, in particular, have reported a spike this summer, according to Long Island Wine Council president Ron Goerler Jr.
“August has been tremendous,” said Mr. Goerler, owner of Jamesport Vineyards. “This is the largest turnout we’ve ever seen. Whether it’s their first time here or they have rediscovered it – people are here.”
More visitors has meant more business for local shops, particularly in Greenport.
“It was the best summer we’ve had,” said Shelley Scoggin, owner of The Market in Greenport, which first opened in 1987. “We were really, really busy and Greenport was busier than ever.”
Even before the season began, Greenport Village Business Improvement District director Peter Clark predicted a tourism surge in the waterfront village this year.
In anticipation, the BID developed new maps and signage to outline the business district for visitors and sponsored a number of events to attract tourists.
The preparation started before Christmas, as the BID worked to let the public know that Greenport is open for business and the majority of storefronts weren’t destroyed in the storm.
Infrastructure was even improved in Greenport this summer, Mr. Clark said. The recently completed electrical upgrade to the east pier at Mitchell Park Marina has already reached its goal of luring mega yachts to Greenport Harbor, according to village administrator David Abatelli. In August, usage of the marina was up 35 percent compared with this time last year, which brought in about $180,000 in additional revenue for the village in just one month, he said.
“I’m happy to say it is attributed to the yachts,” Mr. Abatelli said. “July was better than last year, too, but August was exceptional, especially for the marina.”
Now that the season is winding down, Mr. Clark said the planning has paid off.
“People have fallen in love with the assets of our area,” he said. “I know we’ve had more traffic for sure. The marina has been full and mega yachts have been docking. People are interested in coming to Greenport. It’s excellent.”
The tremendous push made by the BID and the village to restore the waterfront community has not gone unnoticed by visitors.
“We are fans of anywhere they’ve succeeded in making the downtown attractive and vibrant,” Ms. Ash said. “Greenport has a great mix of old and new. It’s a hard balance for many towns to maintain.”