HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The unofficial end of summer has Michiganders headed to the lakeshore and giving Holland businesses a boost.
It’s especially a boon for restaurants that still face challenges spurred by the pandemic. Tens of thousands of bars and restaurants nationwide shut down during that time, and those that survived continue to deal with the pandemic’s impact.
The Curragh, a family-owned Irish pub in the heart of downtown Holland on East 8th Street, is one of the restaurants that made it through the pandemic.
“I’m super grateful to everybody in Holland and the surrounding areas for supporting us,” co-owner Sophia Leongas told News 8 Monday.
Leongas said some things, like supply issues, have improved since the pandemic. The problem is everything is costing more.
“Expenses have gone up for real,” Leongas said. “Food is costing a lot more, which reflects in our menu costs.”
It’s the big items: meat, fish, potatoes and produce. Leongas said most customers have understood why the restaurant has needed to raise prices.
“It’s not cheap to eat out anymore,” Leongas said. “We like to provide quality and hospitality, it’s what we do here. Maybe people can’t come as often, but we hope they choose us as their favorite place.”
Now the pub is down in sales compared to last year. Leongas said it’s a “significant drop” between 10% and 15%.
“I’m not gonna complain,” she said. “A lot of restaurants were closed last year, every restaurant that opens up takes a little bit. We still had a really good summer.”
“I’ve been doing this long enough you have to control your costs,” she continued. “You have to react. That’s the hardest part between the weather and predicting what’s gonna happen.”
Leongas also believes the entire lakeshore has seen less traffic than past years.
“I think the lakeshore has been down generally,” she said. “I don’t know if people have been traveling further now that restrictions are gone. It’s hard to tell, but tourism has been good, and we hope to keep continuing.”
While many restaurants have struggled to find employees, The Curragh was able to staff well this summer. But now with teenagers going back to school, they’re short-staffed on Labor Day.
“We have a sign out front, kind of says, ‘Please forgive us,’” Leongas said. “Because everybody’s doing the best they can. All hands on deck. That’s how you found me here today.”
“The people that we do have working for us; they love being here,” she continued. “I love working with young people and keeping our community happy. Offering hospitality is really what we’re all about.”
Labor Day weekend has been a solid boost for the business amid great weather. The restaurant is seeing customers fill their patio.
“We’re super thankful to the community,” she said.
DUTCH GIFT SHOP SEES MORE BUSINESS
Right down the street from The Curragh is the Dutch Village Downtown gift shop. The store is still new, but it calls back to generations of Dutch history.
“We have Dutch gifts, souvenirs,” said co-owner Joe Nelis. “Everything from souvenir-quality items all the way up to the Royal Delft. We’re going to the Netherlands every few years to see what we can find and bring back unique things.”
The store also customizes wooden shoes and other wooden gifts on-site. Their main attraction is a whole lot of cheese ready to sample.
“We have 27 different kinds of Dutch cheeses that you can go right down the line and taste every single one of them,” Nelis said.
Nelis, who also owns the longtime Nelis’ Dutch Village theme park, wanted to open the gift shop in 2020 before the pandemic struck.
“We had big plans and they all got shut down,” Nelis said. “We ended up being down 49.5% for the year. We were sitting on a mountain full of merchandise that we hadn’t sold in 2020.”
They finally opened their doors on E 8th Street in October 2021. Supply chain issues made things rough at first, but they got through it just fine.
“We’ve been very fortunate this year,” Nelis said. “This store’s doing great. We’re in one of the best places on 8th Street in downtown Holland.”
Supply chain disruptions remain today — they’re still waiting on a huge box of merchandise abroad.
“Our last shipment was in the Netherlands, sitting in the freight fort in the Netherlands for four weeks,” Nelis said. “We still gotta get to the bottom of that.”
Regardless, Nelis said the summer has gone well and they’re generating more revenue than last year.
“We’re happy to be putting some plus signs in the revenue column here too,” Nelis said. “Now going along with that, wage rates have come up with it. Rent goes up every year. You’ve got more money going out, but it’s always great to have the plus signs on the revenue size to help with that.”