Dealing with the off-season in a tourist town

Come the first touch of chill here, and three-quarters of the population begins to vanish. Those folks quietly pack up and return to their primary residence, as have the many tourists. It rather reminds me of living in a college town, but in reverse.

Downtown Eastport in the off-season. The Tides Institute and Museum sits in the old bank building in the center of the scene.

The waterfront and downtown are no longer crowded and festive. Many of the stores, galleries, and eateries are closed up, as are the whale watch, water taxi, and passenger ferry to Lubec. By Halloween, roughly two stores, a diner and a restaurant plus a gallery or two remain open downtown, plus the IGA, two banks, and Family Dollar over on Washington Street.

It makes for a challenging business model, trying to pay the rent and all on a four-month retail prime time. Here the highly watched Black Friday, the make-it-or-break-it financial hurdle of American retailing, doesn’t wait till the day after Thanksgiving but probably hits sometime around the beginning of August.

I have to admire the entrepreneurs who manage it anyway, especially those who stay open through the slim volume of the two-thirds of the year when Eastport’s remote fishing village nature is most prominent.

It also means a lot of do-it-yourself involvement. If you want to see movies, you join the film society. Music? Pitch in with the choir or orchestra. Theater? You guessed it. Dining out? One of the neighboring towns must be having a church supper. Seriously.

And you turn out for others.

Yes, it means more work than just sitting on the sidelines, and with a small population, keeping things going can be a struggle.

But one thing I’ve noticed. It doesn’t take long to be appreciated when you take part.


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