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Woodward Dream Cruise Has Regional Economic Payoff

The event will generate approximately $56 million for businesses in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties – as well as international exposure for the area – but some merchants along the route say their sales take a dive during the event.

The Woodward Dream Cruise brings big bucks and international exposure to communities along the historic avenue each August, but business owners say the event is a blessing and a curse.

The cruise benefits the region as a whole – with hotels and restaurants throughout Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties coming out as winners – but results in soft sales and shuttered doors for many merchants along the 16-mile parade route that stretches from Ferndale to Pontiac.

Metro Detroit hotels, restaurants benefit

Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president and COO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Friday that the Dream Cruise – which is expected to attract 1.5 million people – brings in approximately $56 million for businesses in the three-county area.

"The real true winners are the hotels and restaurants," he said. "We will see about a 10 percent increase in hotel occupancy this week compared to the weekends on either shoulder."

O'Callaghan said most of the hotel bookings are in Oakland County – including in Royal Oak, Birmingham and Blomfield Hills – with some spillover into Macomb and Wayne counties.

He said Dream Cruise visitors spend, on average, approximately $250 per day on hotel rooms and restaurant bills.

"So in the big picture of things, they're producing a lot of money for the communities that have hotels," O'Callaghan said.

Some small businesses take a hit

However, many business owners along the parade route say cruise fans bring their own food and beverages and only patronize nearby establishments to use the bathrooms. As a result, many businesses see soft sales during Dream Cruise weekend and opt to close or reduce their hours.

"This is a free entertainment crowd," said Jeremy Haberman, who owns the Magic Bag in Ferndale. "They're self-contained. They come in with coolers."

He said that, over the years, the concert venue has tried a variety of ways to capitalize on the event – including booking Bo Diddley; renting out the space; and offering free movies, rockabilly shows and Beatles tribute concerts – without success.

At ROUGE, a makeup and nail studio in Ferndale, owner Cheryl Salinas-Tucker said customers who called about appointments Saturday changed their minds once they realized it was Dream Cruise weekend, which reinforced her decision to close that day.

"Really it's because no one can get to my business," she said, pointing out that her parking lot is rented out for one of the Dream Cruise events. "We don't want to be a bathroom, either.

"It's just one day," she said. "To us, it's not a big deal. I know a lot of people do take quite a hit; but we just see it as a Saturday off, which we rarely get."

Exposure is 'priceless'

Westborn Market in Berkley takes the if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em approach by hosting the annual Champagne Cruise fundraiser Friday night and staying open with reduced staff and hours Saturday as a courtesy to customers, marketing director Bryan Bandyk said.

"It does impact, negatively, sales on Saturday," Bandyk said. "Friday, we've made a cognitive business decision to get involved and host the Forgotten Harvest fundraiser, which is a kickoff to the cruise.

"It is what it is. You're not going to be able to fight that," he said. "We just have a fraction of the business; sales will be down 75 percent (Saturday). On the other hand, we realize the overall value it brings to the community."

Westborn will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, when it will have reduced staff and fewer offerings at the seafood counter and prepared foods kitchen, Bandyk said; the grocery normally is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days.

"You embrace (the Dream Cruise), you do the best you can and you enjoy the energy. We might get a few new folks who walk through our doors, so there's definitely value there," Bandyk said. "We do support the event. As a business owner in the community, we do see the value it brings."

That's a sentiment O'Callaghan, from the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, echoed.

"The reality is that the communities on Woodward are blessed with it, so the trick is to take advantage of all the extra activity," he said. "Hopefully it's attracting visitors back to Woodward Avenue, visitors who drove over from Toledo or Dearborn. Hopefully, they'll see something they like and come back."

O'Callaghan said the Woodward corridor's exposure during the event cannot be undervalued – a film crew from as far away as Australia will be in this weekend for the event.

"I know Saturday can be hard for some of those businesses," he said. "But, at the same time, it's bringing positive international attention to those communities and, in my mind, that's priceless."

Ferndale Patch Editor Jessica Schrader contributed to this report.

Frank Castronova August 18, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Angela, you are making excellent points and asking great questions. Sure, cruisers spend money, but where? To the vendors that rent booths on Nine Mile, vendors that aren't Ferndale businesses? Do vendors pay a portion of the profits to the city or take it all with them, only giving the city the fee they pay for a permit? How many Ferndale businesses would see a huge change in NET income, not GROSS, over the entire year if the Dream Cruise did not happen? I'd suggest that with having to pay more staff on hand at the businesses that actually get crowded, the profit margin may not be as big as one would think. Someone needs to let we, the Ferndale taxpayers and homeowners, know exactly what the economic impact is.
The Duke of Royal Oak August 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Michigan does not have much heritage to celebrate, being an industrial region,especially the Metro Detroit area which has suffered much negative attention. Metro Detroit is known as the automobile capital of the world, it is this regions Mardi Gras, it is our time to celebrate the history that has made Michigan a wonderful state to live in. We must stand positive and embrace the Dream Cruise, as it is now an International Event. Those concerened with the financial burden need to communicate with their city leaders as to the cost on the city and ways to improve these issues. Such a small sacrafice from individuals for the greater good. Perhaps the small business owners can hand out fliers for discounts etc. to promote their businesses and attract new clients. Sell items such as water etc. The possibilities are endless.
M Kerby August 18, 2012 at 03:32 PM
There is no doubt the event brings perspective customers right to the doors of these businesses. Successful businesses find a way to capitalize on the opportunity to create NET income and the others just complain.
G-Money August 20, 2012 at 01:17 PM
I am on the "like it" side of the Dream Cruise. However, there is an aspect of it that is not "Oh well, it happens every year, it is out of our control, and there is nothing we can do about it." And that would be the city's decision to close down 9 mile from Planavon to Hilton. The city does not have to do this. They do it by choice. The Dream Cruise would still go through Ferndale via Woodward if they did not do this. It may just not be as fun. So if the city is doing that by choice, that means by choice they are closing off access to businesses to some degree to businesses on 9 mile along that stretch, and hurting at least some businesses to some degree. Keep in mind, although Woodward has increased traffic during this time, it is not closed down. So, should the city then make some restitution to businesses that have lost revenue/profit during the closure? Or during other event closures? Do businesses get a say or vote on deciding to close their access roads during these events? Is it just the DDA who OK's these closures for them?
Kathy Couet August 16, 2013 at 06:41 PM
To get a permit to sell anything, outside of your business, is like pulling teeth in Royal Oak....I'm talking, like, water, pops, chips..etc...no way...the permits are so expensive...and heaven forbid...if a customer tries to make it to a opened business, between the traffic, and people that leave their cars in your lot, leave little to no room for customers...Everyone just want's to use your bathroom..and leave it a mess..I have had to deal with this for 19 years now....total lose all week long...and the Police are rude.....as we do not send in money to the city for the Police..so we get hassled all the time...and we don't do anything, but have trouble with unknown people, not from our area....Kathy......

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