Roy Mercon, photo
ST. ALBANS — Canadians have come to town.
French, bicycles and bright Spandex clothing were highly visible in downtown St. Albans Thursday as many of the 1,250 participants in the Vélo Québec Voyages “Grand Tour Desjardins” explored Franklin County’s center city.
“The streets of St. Albans were filled with Lycra-clad bikers,” said Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce director Dave Southwick this morning. “It felt like the downtown was quite vibrant.”
Around noontime yesterday, the line for coffee snaked almost to the door inside The Traveled Cup, storefronts were busy with visitors going in and out, and all outdoor patios overflowed with diners.
“There were restaurants that called for extra help,” said Southwick.
In the coffee and ice cream shop, owner Hannah Lyford said by early afternoon her sales were up considerably.
“I probably had 30 percent more business [today],” she said Thursday. “And it’s not even one o’clock yet.”
Lyford added, “I love giving them their lattes.”
Southwick added that cyclists had also taken advantage of Kill Kare and Burton Island state parks in St. Albans Bay. “They had a lot of visitors,” he said.
Up the road a bit at Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center, where the cyclists arrived Wednesday and camped out until today, manager Dave Kimel said this morning the income from the tour was enough to cover costs and even make a little profit for the complex.
“I can tell you that the Collins Perley board received the request and saw this was a community event that we should be supportive of,” he said.
In addition to the services provided by the complex, Southwick said the event provided some temporary jobs for local young people.
“We’re also responsible for hiring 40 young adults for various jobs while [the cyclists] are in the area,” said Southwick.
Across the street from Collins Perley, the Jolley Store had a good number of additional customers the past two days.
“I know our sales are up a lot,” said employee Hillary LeClair.
Assistant manager Tim Dune said while the store normally sees about 800 purchases each day, with the cyclists here, that’s gone up to 1,200 or 1,300.
“It’s a good opportunity for business,” he said. Dune added, “It’s all really nice people across the street – it’s nice to meet new people.”
Southwick said many other businesses have taken a similar, friendly approach to the visitors from Quebec, many of whom have gone to him and said how welcoming everyone has been.
“People come up and say they’re enjoying the hospitality of the region,” Southwick said. “They’ve had a very positive experience here.”
And that, in addition to the conservative estimate of $10,000 to $20,000 extra in business income over the past few days, is worth a lot to Franklin County in the form of returning tourists.
When asked what he thought of Franklin County, rider Francois Racicot of Laval, Quebec said the area was nice and the drivers, as they passed bicycles on the road, were respectful.
“Maybe [I’ll] come back,” he said.