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Businesses' refrain: 'We love the rally'

The Family Motor Coach Association's four-day visit is boomtime for many Hernando businesses, prompting a spurt of profits and overtime.

By TERESA BURNEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 10, 2002


In 2001, the Family Motor Coach Association's annual four-day visit to the Hernando County Airport meant a new fryer for the owners of the county's two Dunkin' Donuts.

For the employees, it brought a company picnic, turkeys at Thanksgiving and hams at Christmas.

Every year, the motor coach association orders 400 dozen doughnuts, four mornings in a row, to feed the 4,000-plus rally attendees during morning coffee hour.

By Saturday morning, the local Dunkin' Donuts had delivered 19,200 doughnuts to airport this year.

"We look forward to these four days," said Cathy Cavanagh, a Dunkin' Donuts owner.

This year, the extra proceeds from the rally sales may be enough for a down payment on a new van for the business, Cavanagh said. "We love the rally."

For many Hernando County businesses, especially eating establishments, the annual Southeast Area rally, which concludes today, means extra business, extra hours for their workers and extra money in the tills.

"Oh, Jesus, Lord, I wish they were here every day of the week," said Craig Hall, manager of the Boston Cooker Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Spring Hill Drive.

Hall figures diners from the rally nearly double his business, adding about 80 customers each day.

"And they are some of the nicest, kindest, gentlest people you have ever met," he said.

Last week, one woman came up to him and asked how his daughter was. She remembered her name and that she had been in a soccer tournament last year when the rally was in town.

"It was amazing," he said.

Hall said he put a coupon in an advertisement, offering a free draft beer or wine with each entree, and people have been redeeming those. Still, he was a bit surprised business was so brisk, considering it can take as long as 30 minutes to get from the airport to his restaurant.

"Next year, I might just move the damned restaurant down there," he said.

Other local restaurants also reported strong business, including Papa Joe's east of Brooksville and Nouvelle Cuisine and Ram's Horn Family Restaurant in Spring Hill.

The Family Motor Coach Association itself reports it spends $200,000 in the community for the event, $94,000 on tent rental alone. Then there are the costs of hiring entertainers, renting 65 extra golf carts for volunteers to get around in, fire extinguishers, two-way radios for communication and portable toilets.

In addition to eating out, attendees also spend money at local stores and on entertainment, say other business owners.

The Rivard Golf and Country Club, near the entrance to the rally, for instance, reported an extra 50 or 60 rounds of golf last week.

"We love to have them come," said Weiland Rogers of Rogers' Christmas House Village in Brooksville.

"It's certainly noticeable" to business when the rally is in town, Rogers said, and it comes at a good time because this is typically a slow time for the Christmas House.

Many businesses add employees or pay them overtime to accommodate the extra visitors.

At Dunkin' Donuts, it meant 18-hour days for Cavanagh. She came to work at about 4:30 a.m. and left at about 10:30 p.m. each day. Normally she works from 6 a.m. to 3:30.

To meet the orders, Cavanagh had to run another bake each day.

Typically, the store bakes its doughnuts at 6 a.m. Last week, to fill the motor coach order, workers started a second round of baking at 3 p.m. and finished at about 2 a.m. They filled and frosted doughnuts as they cooled from 10 p.m. until 4 or 4:30 a.m. It took one worker four or five hours just to assemble, put tissue in, and stack the 100 special boxes it took to hold the doughnuts.

The finished order filled the 14-foot-long box in the delivery van each day, Cavanagh said.

"It's pretty amazing," she said.

-- Teresa Burney covers business and development in Hernando County. She can be reached at 848-1434. Send e-mail to burney@sptimes.com.

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