Feature

N.B. Tourist Towns Count On Strong Summers, Loyal Locals in the Wintertime

As a province with plenty of coastline, New Brunswick is also home to a number of towns and villages desolate in the winter months and bustling in the summer.

The fluctuating nature of activity there can be a unique challenge for both seasonal and year-round businesses operating in areas that depend on tourism to get by.

Matthew Honey, along with his wife Angela, has owned and run Honeybeans Coffee in Saint Andrews for nine years. He says one of the main challenges of a tourist town is that the population drops drastically in the wintertime.

“We pretty much expect that we’re going in the hole over the course of the winter and you have to sort of make it up in the summertime,” he says. “You don’t want to get too excited about the numbers you see in the summertime because you’re going to need that in the winter.”

image: submitted

Honey says part of being able to get by is having a supportive staff that understands they won’t be able to work as much at the cafe in the winter. He adds that they give the staff as many hours as they can and watch the cafe’s spending on equipment to get through the slower months.

He says the small population is both a blessing and a curse, that they have to be diplomatic with what they say since word spreads very quickly, but that that can be a benefit as well. He says when they first opened their doors, they didn’t have a grand opening event but people still knew they were up and running.

“The plus side is the town is so small that everybody is sort of like one big family and people look out for you and watch out for you,” he says. “Because we’re pretty much the only coffee shop in town besides Tim Hortons, [we] get a lot of customer loyalty.”

Shediac and the surrounding area also gets plenty of traffic in the summer and very little in the winter.

image: Mark Goebel/flickr

Shediac Paddle Shack sits near the giant lobster, a Shediac landmark and tourist attraction, catching the traffic of visitors driving into town. Co-owner Alex Swartman says their business is very dependent on weather, but that under their new ownership, they’re expanding their season with some success.

“Our first rental this year was May long weekend. We’re two weeks ahead of schedule this year and that was because we had some great weather May long weekend,” Swartman says.

“One of the biggest challenges for us is the short season and the short window … Out here in the Maritimes, we usually have that cooler weather and our waters don’t really warm up until the first week of July.”

Swartman says their location makes things a little easier. Being on the Scoudouc River means their clients renting paddleboards aren’t going out into hazardous areas. He says the river is calm and fairly remote, with little boat traffic or currents.

The Paddle Shack has begun offering activities beyond their regular paddleboard and kayak rentals, including paddleboard yoga and meditation.

Just a drive up the road from Shediac, Pointe-du-Chêne Wharf serves as an attraction and meeting spot for locals and tourists alike.

Wharf manager Victor Cormier says he works from April 1 to October 31, first gearing up for the season, then preparing the wharf for the winter months. He says setting up and closing down each take six weeks.

Cormier says Pointe-du-Chêne is pretty well a ghost town in the off months and becomes like a little city in the summer.

“Around the Shediac area, Pointe-du-Chêne Wharf is the place to be and people want to come here,” he says. “They meet people they haven’t seen for a long time. They just come to enjoy the boating, sailing, the sunsets, do some mackerel fishing. It’s just the place to be I guess.”

Cormier says they’ll get around 300,000 visitors throughout the year, including winter visitors to the wharf. He says their business is also very dependent on good weather.

“If you get a nice sunny summer then there are going to be more people coming,” he says. “When you put all the months together and you can average out five weeks of good weather, then everybody can make their season, the businesses on the wharf and everybody else.”