Businesses gird for ice influx

Published 7:03pm Sunday, January 8, 2012

Local businesses are going to great lengths to accommodate the thousands of extra people that converge on downtown Niles for the annual Hunter Ice Festival.
Dave Dulemba, owner of The Nuggett Downtown Grill, designates one employee to roll silverware into napkins all day on the Saturday of the festival.
That’s 12 hours of placing forks, knives and spoons into napkins.
“We’ll probably roll 3,000 on Saturday,” Dulemba said.
“We try to have at least three sets of rolled silverware in place. You have what is on the table and you have your backup and you have your backup to your backup.”
Nuggett employees aren’t allowed to take off work Saturday either, meaning Dulemba has a staff of 15 on hand to tend the influx of ice enthusiasts.
Dulemba estimates he does triple the business on a Hunter Ice Festival Saturday compared to a normal Saturday.
“It gets busy,” he said.
A few doors down from The Nuggett on Main St., The Paris Soda Shop & Restaurant will be serving up gallons and gallons of bread-bowl chili to Hunter Ice Fest-goers.
“On a normal Saturday we’ll go through two gallons, but for Hunter Ice we’ll go through about 20 just on Saturday,” said Paris owner Elaine Tughan. “It gets pretty crazy.”
So crazy, Tughan had to shut down The Paris last year for 30 minutes to get caught up with silverware, dishes and glasses.
Tughan sells a lot of her handmade hot cocoa — about 200 cups compared to the usual 20 to 25.
To keep up with the demand, The Paris bumps up their usual staff of two to 10.
“I have to pull all my students back from school in just for that weekend,” Tughan said.
Although the Hunter Ice Festival means a lot more work, downtown businesses aren’t complaining.
The festival — and other downtown events and promotions like it — are essential in keeping businesses going strong.
“It is a necessity, especially at this time of year when it is cold and people don’t like to go out,” Tughan said. “It brings more people downtown and shows what we have available to them as well.”
Dulemba agrees.
“It is a one-day travel adventure for a lot of these people,” he said. “It creates a positive atmosphere and doesn’t really cost anything to come down and look at the ice or the shops that are open. It isn’t about one business, it is a community thing and that itself creates a strength in the Niles Main Street atmosphere.”
The Hunter Ice Festival runs Friday through Sunday in downtown Niles.

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