Over the past few months, every time you passed by the gray shingled facade of the small unassuming building that houses the famous Flo’s Clam Shack in Portsmouth, you would see that it was shuttered for the winter. Literally shuttered, with wood panels covering the windows to prevent any damage from winter storms or winds. It happens late in the fall when all the vacationers have gone away, families are back in school and the traffic that usually busies the beaches and street returns to normal. They shut down for the winter as most seasonal businesses do. Then for us, the real Rhode Islanders, we survive through the winter months looking at these hibernating businesses as small reminders of the warmer days that give them life. Today, that glimmer of life shone again. Flo’s was opening today.
It was just a small sign, written by hand and haphazardly tacked to one of the posts that hold up the canopy at the ordering window, but there it was. It said, “Open Friday.” Word would spread soon. Pretty soon, the smell of frying clam cakes would hit the air and start luring the locals. People driving by would see commotion in the parking lot and know what was happening. Even the seagulls would start to circle the parking lot again, waiting for stray French fries dropped by clumsy eaters. Flo’s was back and that meant we just took another step towards the joy of summer.
It’s been happening all around us lately and in fact, Flo’s in Middletown (the original) opened up last weekend as did Flo’s neighbor in Portsmouth, Schultzy’s Snack Shack. All are only open on the weekends for now, when people are around, but it’s a good start. It means that more people will be coming out of their own hibernation and they will be hungry. More businesses will start to follow suit too. In fact, local ice cream stand Frosty Freez in Middletown opened for the season last weekend and despite temperatures in the low 40s, customers were standing in line literally shivering as they waited for their first soft serve in months. Sometimes the tastes of Spring can keep us warmer than our winter coats.
Businesses are hiring
This is all good for our communities too. More open businesses mean more people are in town and spending money. That keeps our economy going. The tourism industry brings in over $2.5 billion dollars to the Rhode Island economy every year and is responsible for over 40,000 jobs. Having people coming to visit our state keeps us going, so seeing seasonal spots starting to reopen is hopeful. All those spots that were shut down for the winter are hiring now too – gearing up for the summer. In fact, all businesses that say increased business in the summer are gearing up. If your plans for the summer include working by the beaches, now is the time to get those applications in and start talking to the managers.
The first few days of sun has reminded us all that we have made it through the winter and we have escaped from hibernation with taste for what we have been missing. We are all dusting off and cleaning up. We’re ready for the best of days that are ahead. And now, we have clam cakes to make them tastier (at least on weekends, for now).