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A little slower this time of year? Not necessarily

Businesses have ups, downs in summer months

Life is supposed to take a slower turn in the heat of summer.

For some businesses that’s true, although it’s not necessarily a good thing. Others are far from singing “summertime and the living is easy.” Think cool — anything cool: ice cream, snowcones, air-conditioning and even cool souvenirs bought on vacation.

At Sharkheads on the beach in Biloxi, a harried sales associate answered the phone and said no one had time to talk.

“Oh yes, it gets very busy,” he said of the bright pink store that carries a huge inventory of souvenirs, shells, beachwear, towels, etc. With its large, ferocious-looking shark head outside, the store draws children like a magnet.

Down U.S. 90 at the Haagen-Dazs ice cream shop, owner Grant Dickinson says business is exceptionally good in the summer.

“We have twice the business that we have the rest of the year,” he said. “We have a fantastic location with great foot traffic, plenty of parking and a view of the beach.”

Although Dickinson has owned the shop a year and a half, it’s been at this Edgewater Village location for 23 years. He says the sports pub next door is also good for business with people coming in for dessert at all hours.

The 14 employees sell more vanilla ice cream than any other flavor but he says that’s because vanilla is used for numerous treats including sundaes, shakes, cakes and banana splits. After vanilla, rocky road and pralines-and-cream are the most popular flavors at the Biloxi shop.

Keeping it cool

Air-conditioning serviceman Richard Scott of Long Beach also sees a big up turn of business this time of year. “I go all day from early in the morning to late afternoon and could work all night too if I wanted to,” he said.

The hot summer is not conducive to increased sales of hot coffee. Suzie Penman, an employee at the Seattle Drip coffee drive-through shop on Old Canton Road in Jackson, said they don’t sell as much coffee in the summer as the rest of the year.

“We sell more frozen drinks and wish we had frozen yogurt,” she said. “We’ll see coffee sales pick up when the weather gets cooler.”

May and June are slow months for Thrifty Car Rentals in Gulfport but owner Don Hartsfield says that typically July is a good month. “Business will pick up with rentals of vans, mini vans and SUVs for outbound vacations, but school starts so early it won’t extend into August,” he said. “I don’t know why, but it was dead from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, too.”

He says his best times are late winter and early spring with 40 % of his business coming from military personnel connected to Camp Shelby, Keesler Air Force Base and the Gulfport Seebee Base.

Hartsfield bought the car rental business in 1992 as gaming was getting started on the Coast. He began with eight cars and was up to 500 at the time of the 9/11 tragedy and is now down to 300 cars. He says he hasn’t rebounded from that time and is down from nine stores to three.

“We’re profitable and have settled into a business plan that we’re comfortable with,” he said. “Gaming is why I bought a rental car business, and it has really helped. We work real hard at giving good service and good value.”

He feels that the just-announced additional flights at the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport and the opening of the Hard Rock Casino will help business.

“The airport has done a real good job of getting new flights, and I rent to about 17% of passengers who rent cars,” he said. “I think the Hard Rock will bring in a younger crowd who are more likely to rent cars online. They want to save money even if it’s just 50¢. I should get my share of those, too.”

Break before holiday bustle

The summer months are not a booming time for Brock’s Gift Center in Jackson, although they make up a lot of gift baskets and bags for summer conferences. “Christmas is our busiest time of year, especially for food items,” said Cara Davis, who’s worked at the Maywood Mart location four years. “We don’t put many gourmet food items in the summer baskets and bags either.”

Brock’s is well known for its line of Mississippi products including jams, jellies, pickles, cheese straws and other food items produced in the state. In the summer, the gift baskets and bags mostly contain non-food items; things like items from state universities, shot glasses, coffee mugs and postcards, Davis said.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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