No words were needed. The wide empty spaces along Sheridan Avenue during the July 4 parade said it all.
“It was different, just like the entire 2020,” said Gail Nace, owner of Silver Dollar Bar and Grill.
Six businesses reported traffic was down 25-50%.
The Stampede Rodeo, although drawing thousands into its stands, only reached the 2,800 capacity limit one of its four nights.
Jeremy Blaylock, owner of Granny’s Restaurant, said although traffic has been decent “with everything considered,” he doesn’t expect business conditions to return to normal for two years.
“Next year probably not,” he said.
Mark Kearney, owner of A Western Rose Motel, said business is “still way down” from last year and said it continued in that fashion during the July 4 holiday.
“It sucks to own a motel right now,” he said.
Kearney said many of his Winchester Gun Show customers did not come to Cody this summer and there has been a total drop off in international tourists.
“We usually get a lot of Canadians – we don’t have any of those,” Kearney said. “It’s all over the news – ‘corona’ is in the West.”
Western Rose sent hundreds of emails to foreigners who cancelled their reservations and asked if they could defer their reservations until 2021. Kearney said only about 10 took them up on the offer.
Christie Livingston, owner of the Moose Creek Lodge and Suites, said international tourists make up about 1/3 of their clientele.
Celes Boullain, general manager of The Cody Hotel, said business was down about 50% over the Fourth, and Livingston shared the same sentiment.
“We have one building not even open,” Livingston said. “Usually we’re completely full June, July and August.”
Peter’s Cafe relies heavily on fixing packed lunches for tour bus groups and local tourism outfits. Owner Susan Cory said although they just had a $2,500 tour cancellation for August and no large tour busses to date this summer, certain local services have remained steady.
“Rafting (business purchases) has been good,” Cory said, “the local guys are keeping us busy so that’s good. We’d rather help the locals.”
Rich Evans has owned River Runners rafting for 26 years. He said although business was down over the holiday, it wasn’t terrible.
“It wasn’t like nobody came,” he said. “Something is better than nothing.”
He and other business representatives expected more of a regional tourist crowd entering this summer, but Evans said this did not come to fruition, with visitors from Washington to New England looking to ride the frothy water.
Despite shortcomings, the unquenchable Cody spirit is alive and well.
During the July 4 parade, Cody firefighters got into a playful water tangle with staff at the Silver Dollar, a tradition now three years in the making.
“It was way sweet,” said Nace. “Every year gets a little more creative. They ambushed us from a rooftop we didn’t expect.
“It’s just small town, Cody, Wyoming at its finest.”
Despite the gloomy report from business owners, Yellowstone National Park reported only a 1% drop for traffic at the East and South entrances when compared to 2019, for the time period of June 16-29. Overall Park visitation for this time period was down 11%. No stats were available for the week of July 4.
And even though overall rafting business is down for Evans, he said many of his clientele has been paying for more expensive packages than usual.
“They all want something a little more,” he said.
The White House announced last month it was extending a ban on green cards and adding many temporary visas to the freeze, including J-1 visas and H-2B visas.
Kearney said the Western Rose typically gets its workers from China, but due to the drop in business it was probably for the best they could not hire any of these employees.
Livingston on the other hand said not being able to pull from the international pool for employees has affected her operations.
“We’re short,” she said, “there’s not enough Americans that want to work.”
Although he said business is in a slump, Kearney said it has improved noticeably since early June and finds it picking up as July wanes on.
And business is not down across all industries. Many of the trades involved in construction work have reported average or even above average sales.
Ray Lozier, owner of Acker Electric, said his work demand has been surprisingly steady this summer.
“New construction seems to be moving along well, remarkably well,” Lozier said. “Maybe the low interest rates are causing locals to upgrade.”
He said most of the renovations and new house work Acker has performed has been for local customers. Lozier also said service work for smaller-type jobs has been consistent.
But Shawn Warner, president of Sletten Construction, said even though business has been on target as well, he sees dark clouds looming in the forecast. Sletten performs work throughout the state with many businesses and governmental agencies, signing many of its work contracts a year in advance.
“We haven’t seen tangible evidence but the warning signs are there,” he said.