Downtown: Black Ice hockey tournament a boon for businesses
Black Ice Ale was on tap in downtown bars.
Local hotels offered a special deal for tournament participants, and shuttles ran between White Park and Main Street.
The Barley House ran a special burger: coleslaw and hot cajun mayo on a blackened beef patty.
It was unmistakably Black Ice Pond Hockey Championship weekend in Concord, as players and spectators stepped – or skated – away from the ice at White Park and into downtown businesses.
“It just hums, the whole thing,” said Liza Poinier, operations manager of Intown Concord. “It’s a scene.”
More than 600 players, some local and some from as far away as Florida, participate in the tournament. But they don’t just come for the ice, said Chris Brown, one of the tournament’s founders.
“They enjoy Concord as well,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of teams that come from out of the city. . . . So they definitely enjoy the restaurants and stay in the hotels and spend some money in Concord. It’s not a bad excuse to get people out.”
And even in the cold this weekend, the three-day tournament brought people out in “droves,”
Brown said. He predicted several thousand people would be passing through White Park – and Concord – for the tournament.
“The closeness of the pond and the central (location) of White Park to the city, people are coming out of their houses to come and watch this and take in the atmosphere of the event,” Brown said.
The Barley House is one of the local businesses that has sponsored the tournament ever since its first year. The restaurant offers specials throughout the weekend and sponsors two teams – one men’s team, one women’s team. (The Barley House No Stars competed in the women’s final yesterday morning and lost to the Iceholes.)
“I think ultimately it was going to be a really good thing for Concord, and we wanted to be a part of that,” Barley House owner Brian Shea said.
And the tournament is a good thing for the Barley House, too.
“There’s no question our business spikes up. . . . We have a really good business spike in the middle of a traditionally slower time in the calendar,” Shea said.
Local hotels offered blocks of rooms for players, along with their families and friends.
Only a handful of guests at the Comfort Inn this weekend were in town for the tournament, even with the discounted rate, said General Manager Jessie Jenkins. But in the fourth year of this tournament, the turnout has grown from just two or three rooms in the first year.
“We had probably no more than 10 rooms (this year),” she said. “But it is gaining ground each year.”
Player Tyler Bickford, 29, returned to his hometown this weekend from Providence, R.I., to play in the tournament with some old hockey buddies. Their reunion means time on the ice together again, but it also means a night out together.
“Saturday night means going downtown,” Bickford said.
Like others, Bickford said he wants to play in the tournament again – which means he’ll be back on Main Street in Concord as well.
“I’ll be back next year,” he said.
Fro-yo business hasn’t frozen
Outside, the temperature on the Main Street sidewalk was 15 degrees.
Inside, a group of teenagers chatted and scraped Dips frozen yogurt from the bottom of their bowls.
And just blocks away, an employee behind the counter at Orange Leaf wrote fro-yo specials on a chalkboard above the register.
“Winter, colder months are slower than the summer, obviously, but we have a good base of regular customers even while it’s cold out,” said Orange Leaf owner Kristina Hathaway.
Dips owner Nick Harriman said the summer months helped his store build a base of regulars since opening last year, and some of those customers have continued to brave the elements to get their frozen yogurt fix.
“These cold days had definitely hurt business,” Harriman said. “People aren’t really walking around downtown.”
But it’s warm inside, he said.
“It’s funny because some people walk in and they’re shivering . . . but people really love it,” Harriman said.
Hathaway said catering birthday parties and in-store fundraisers are also a boost to business with below-freezing temperatures outside.
“They’re coming in to get out of the cold and also enjoy a treat,” Hathaway said. “So even though it is a frozen treat, it’s still a treat, and people want to enjoy that year-round.”
And maybe this really is the perfect time of year for a to-go cup – it won’t melt.
Loyal to local business
The graves of local veterans will be marked with American flags from a Main Street business this spring.
The Concord Veterans Council has decided to buy 4,320 flags from Flag-Works Over America for the city’s 13 cemeteries this year. Patrick Page, the store’s owner, said the council awarded the contract to him even though his offer wasn’t the lowest bid.
His per-flag price was three cents higher than an out-of-state company, which made a difference of about $129 on the order total.
But Ned Brooks, secretary of the Veterans Council, chose local.
“It’s better for the city to keep it in the city,” Brooks said.
Page, who has owned his business since 1996, said he has lost contracts by that slim a margin before.
“When I said, ‘You’ve got the order,’ it was like I gave him a Christmas present,” Brooks said.
Those flags will be distributed on Memorial Day. A U.S. Navy veteran, Page said he was honored to both earn the contract from the Concord Veterans Council and provide flags for Concord’s cemeteries.
“I love going by anywhere and seeing my flags,” Page said. “I’m a proud guy. I really believe in America and veterans. . . . I think it’s really important to be showing our patriotism to the whole country and to veterans,” he said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)