Lakefront Businesses See Summer Success

Smith Boys, located in Ashville, reported strong rentals this summer on Chautauqua Lake due to great weather. Marcus Maloney, Smith Boys general manager, said he hopes new hotels around the lake will further bolster business. “The folks who want to go out and spend their leisure time are absolutely doing it without question,” Maloney said. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Chautauqua Lake supports a variety of businesses along its shores. Resorts, restaurants, marinas and campgrounds have to take advantage of the summer months, and with the season coming to a close over the Labor Day weekend, some businesses have reported more success than in past years.

Although many of the businesses interviewed reported having a slow start to the season due to a late winter, sunny days with little daytime rain helped draw customers to marinas and campgrounds.

“The weather has been absolutely beautiful,” said Marcus Maloney, Smith Boys general manager.

Maloney said rentals have been going strong this summer at the Ashville marina and boat dealer. Since he noted that the last weeks of September and first week of October in 2017 were some of the nicest weeks last year, he’s excited for the summer to continue past Labor Day. He thinks the recently opened Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron and the upcoming Lodge at Chautauqua Lake in Mayville will bring more customers onto the lake.

“Hopefully it just helps traffic on both sides,” Maloney said. “All of it is good.”

Smith Boys has experienced more customer traffic this year compared to last year, Maloney said, although he also commented that business is likely to never return to what it used to be because of the changing economy. It has resulted in a smaller number of dedicated boaters.

“The folks who want to go out and spend their leisure time are absolutely doing it without question,” Maloney said.

As the largest full-service marina on Chautauqua Lake, Smith Boys has taken advantage of what Maloney described as desired water levels, great weed control and overall nicer shape for the lake compared to the past few years.

“It just seemed like everything seemed to work really well this year,” Maloney said of the various groups that provide lake stewardship.

Maloney also commended the work of County Executive George Borrello for displaying interest in his and other businesses. He thanked the community for supporting Smith Boys for more than 50 years.

Camp Chautauqua is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. General Manager Don Anderson said it hosted a well-attended party, a complimentary celebration for the great business they’ve reported this summer.

“It’s been a positive summer,” Anderson said.

While he mentioned the late start for summer weather affected them early on, the months of July and August were more fruitful and busier than last year. Even though summer weather may continue into September, Anderson said there won’t be a lot of business due to the correlation with school being in session and a smaller amount of business. Camp Chautauqua is considered a family destination, Anderson said, and they get lots of customers from Pennsylvania and Ohio. The average campsite costs $45 per night.

Also carrying the Chautauqua brand, Chautauqua Suites continues to be a go-to resort for those enjoying the lake or visiting the Chautauqua Institution. A shuttle transports those who visit the institution during the summer.

“We’ve been very busy,” said Darci Rudny, assistant general manager of sales.

Providing 91 rooms in total, including two executive and two hospitality suites that feature hot tubs and king beds, the suites have also hosted 12 weddings in 2018 so far. Rudny said they expect to have a busy fall wedding season as well. Their expo center hosts up to 1,000 people for various events and private parties.

“Our weekends are full June, July, August, September and October,” Rudny said.

Two restaurants headline Chautauqua Suites. Bellini’s Lounge features different specials every day of the week and is reportedly busier than ever. Olive’s Restaurant features more fine dining, and Rudny said her goal is to get more people eating the several chicken dishes, salmon dishes, steak, prime rib and stuffed olives there.

“It’s been an awesome summer — probably one of the best I can remember in my life,” said Paul Stage, co-owner of the Maple Springs Lake Side Inn with his wife and hotel president Rosemary. “The lake has been spectacular.”

He, too, said occupancy has been on the rise compared to other years. With about 90 days to make the summer count, Paul Stage said there is some pressure to making the summer special for those who stay and make business count. His son, Mat Stage, also runs the Chautauqua Belle tour boat.

“They’ve had an outstanding summer,” Paul Stage said of the Chautauqua Belle.

He said there is an “awesome equation” that makes business possible: the natural beauty of the lake combined with plenty of sunny days and a “great Chautauqua Institution schedule” and opening of the National Comedy Center has helped a lot.

“I had guests go down there (to the comedy center) say we budgeted two to three hours, and we should have budgeted eight,” Paul Stage said.