In Davis Square, Businesses Weather Snow-Related Downturn

By Jared Bowen

Feb. 2, 2011

Snowstorms leave the normally bustling Davis Square emptier than normal -- and some businesses are trying creative ways to bring customers inside. (freeasinspeech/flickr)

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — On the heels of the holidays, the winter months tend to be slow for restaurants. But season that with a batch of snowstorms and, in the words of one restaurateur, it’s a killer.
The two-day snowstorm that’s dropped snow, sleet and freezing rain on New England this week has canceled thousands of flights, closed hundreds of schools and pushed snow removal budgets further and further into the hole.
Deserted streets and empty diners in Somerville’s Davis Square on Wednesday suggest that you can add restaurants to that list of snow-related casualties.
 “Today’s, there’s nobody,” said Helen DeFrancisco, a bartender at the Rosebud Diner.
There are food deliveries here to the Rosebud, but there’s no one to feed, so the diner was closed this morning. The relentless snowstorms have been a peril for patrons and bad for business, DeFrancisco said.
“The snowstorms are hurting everybody. Nobody is out. Business is down, but you gotta hang in there,” DeFrancisco said. “Everybody’s trying to do what they can do. The weekends we’re still holding our own.”
Down the street is Gargoyle’s on the Square. James Conforti has owned the restaurant for 16 years and says this winter has been especially nail-biting.
“People have been partying all December so they really don’t want to come out. Then you throw 73 inches of snow on top of it, it’s horrendous. It really is a killer for business,” Conforti said.
But yesterday it struck him to offer an enticing incentive for the snowbound: A new menu of adult hot chocolates, 20 percent off the bill and $5 cocktails.
“I said you know what if I want people to come in, then I have to show them that I appreciate them coming in during lousy weather and so I have to show them that I have to give them a deal,” Conforti said.
After spreading the message about the deal through e-mail and social media, Conforti found a break in his fiscal forecast.
 “We had over 100 people just walk in. We were just shocked. I think people are just so sick of the snow and they don’t care,” Conforti said.
Suddenly, Conforti felt confident enough to reverse his doomsday predictions for January’s bottom line.
“I think that we’re going to sit there and realize with these snowstorms it’s actually helping business. It’s really actually turned the trend in January around for us,” Conforti said.
That is not, however, an invitation for more snow.

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