With extra apples, popcorn and cider on order, Bud Barnes was ready for the weekend.
The two suspects were arrested for the sniper shootings Thursday, the same day Loudoun County Public Schools was scheduled to allow sports and other school activities to return outdoors.
“We doubled up [staff] for this weekend. We’re anticipating there will be a lot of people,” said Barnes, operator for the Pumpkinville pumpkin patch at Sunshine Farms and Leesburg Animal Park.
After the sniper attacks, which killed 10 people and wounded three in the Washington D.C.-metropolitan area over the course of three weeks, business at the pumpkin patch dropped 5 percent on the weekdays and 25 percent during the week. School field trips were canceled, cutting a large portion of the pumpkin patch’s business during the week, Barnes said. “It’s been very good on the weekends considering,” he said. “It’s a big open area. There’s no real woods around. It’s surrounded by residential homes, so people feel safe.”
Business has not been so good at Countryside Mobile in Sterling.
“People are scared. Whenever they come in, they’ve been hiding behind my candy rack,” said Ittrat Dilshad, manager of the gas station. “They want to come in and out. … Business is really slow. It’s going down last week and this week.”
BUSINESS at gas stations in Virginia and Maryland has dropped as much as 50 percent after the sniper attacks with canceled events and residents opting to stay home, said Randy Hemeon, owner of Dulles Shell on Route 28 and a seller of service stations. “They are going broke fast,” Hemeon said. “When you have a slowdown, it can create havoc on the bottom line.”
Hemeon considers himself one of “the lucky few.” “Most of these incidents occurred close to an interstate system. We’re too far away from it,” he said.
“We’re a little bit in the outer suburbs, which helps us in that sense,” said Randy Collins, president of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve had some information back from businesses. Most of it has been positive. … I’m not aware of any businesses in Loudoun that have lost business in a big way.”
The Dulles Town Center reported that sales numbers are up this month, while the movie theaters have been notably busy, Collins said, adding that he noticed the crowds at restaurants are smaller.
Amy Alarcon, service manager at Olive Garden in Sterling, agrees after talking to wine distributors, who report the sniper attacks have affected several restaurants in the region. “I noticed a decrease since the Manassas attack,” she said. “Families were pretty much staying inside, keeping kids at home. We’re a family-oriented restaurant, [but] we still had most of our business clientele.”
Alarcon said business dropped by 100 to 200 guests each weekday, then picked up during the weekends. “Maybe people felt safer on the weekends,” she said.
“It’s difficult to tell because it’s been slow anyway,” said Brian Evers, assistant manager at Ruby Tuesday in Cascades. “So much has been built up around us, people don’t know we’re here.”
THE LUNCH business at Old Dominion Brewing Co. started slowing in September after technology companies near the Ashburn restaurant and brew pub laid off staff and office space opened up, then continued to slow into October, said Jerry Bailey, company founder. “We don’t really know what it is,” he said. “The irony is our business here in October has been as good as it was in August, because we are doing better evening business than we did in August.”
Floyd Blethen cannot gauge whether the sniper attacks affected business at the farmers markets operated through Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Markets Association. “It’s difficult to say, because we are getting close to the end of the market. Most of the markets do taper off at this time,” said Blethen, association president. “The attendance is down, but it is more of a seasonal situation.”
Business has slowed at the cornfield MAiZE at Temple Hall Regional Park near Leesburg. “It’s been down for the season, and it hasn’t been as big as it has been when we were the only maze around. It was up this weekend,” said Carol Ann Cohen, public information officer for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority about the weekend of Oct. 19-20. “People needed a place to have fun when the kids’ activities at other places were canceled.”
“Apparently the weekend participation at pumpkin patches and fall activities has been relatively unaffected. It appears to be a good crowd at all those places,” said Louis Nichols, agricultural development officer for the county Department of Economic Development. “The Farm Tour last weekend, which would be a good indicator of that, was pretty well attended by people. The weather wasn’t great, and if there was anything, it was probably the weather that was affecting it. … A lot of people in Loudoun think we are a little remote from this.”
Business at the Sterling Pumpkin Patch did take a hit. “It hurt us bad,” said Steve Burcham about the Paramount Promotions Inc. pumpkin stand in Sterling Park, adding that business dropped by 30 percent from last year. “People left their kids in the car. They got a pumpkin and left, quick sales in and out.”
Burcham said business picked up on Saturday and he saw children out for the first time. “There were no kids until yesterday,” he said.