Businesses brace for eclipse crowd
Local businesses are gearing up for an onslaught of customers, who are arriving to view the total eclipse on Aug. 21.
At Erickson's Thriftway Grocery, owner Dan Walston said he has ordered extra deliveries. "We'll be getting pallets of water, Gatorade, chips and beer delivered at night from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., because the Oregon Department of Transportation said off-hours would be the best," Walston said.
On Thursday, Aug. 17, his Super Value 6 grocery supplier will stop bringing trucks to the area. "Orders will be cut off from Thursday through the following Wednesday, so if we run out, we run out," he stated.
He said it is hard to stock up a huge amount, because the store had to pay for it within seven days, and if it doesn't sell they are stuck with the excess.
Walston did order 72 cases of chicken for the deli, and had to freeze it, which they normally don't do. "We tried to get refrigerated trucks, and refrigeration units, but couldn't because everything was already bought up," he said.
Erickson's parking lot will be hosting a burrito feed, hot dog feed, and there will be another food wagon. "Plus, we'll have plenty of chicken," Walson said.
Great Earth Cafe and Market owners Troy and Garry Boyd said they usually serve 125-150 customers per day, and expect that could jump to 1,000 per day, which would be hard to control.
Troy Boyd said they were a little worried about Internet service, since the majority of their customers pay with VISA, and they may have to go to cash-only basis if the card readers fail.
Great Earth bakes its own bread, but there is no way they can keep up with the demand, so the menu will be pared down to five main sandwiches, which will all be made as wraps, some deli items, and salads – take and go foods.
They are hiring extra staff, and began training them months ago. She remembered when 4,000 Cycle Oregon riders visited Madras several years ago, she was at the cash register from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., nonstop with no lull in-between.
At Geno's Italian Grill, owner Debbie Burk said they will feature a limited menu and no table service – customers will order at the front desk.
They are one of four businesses sharing a refrigerated trailer the chamber rented to hold extra food. "I've ordered a ton of extra supplies," Burk said. She said they will be open Monday (their normal day off) but are not hiring any extra staff.
Jennifer DuPont, owner of Wild Winds Station said they will offer breakfast, with three items, and a five-item menu the rest of the day. There will be no table service, but there will be inside and outside seating.
"We will have a tent, tables and a beer trailer outside, and have hired lots of extra staff," DuPont said, adding they are stocking up on plastic cutlery and paper ware, and began smoking their specialty meats on Aug. 1.
Since transportation for staff may be a problem, she said, "We're blocking off the downstairs for the staff to bring sleeping bags and stay here."
We've extended our hours from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., for Aug. 17-22, and then will ride into the air show," she said, adding that after the crowds leave, "We plan to hold a 'We survived the celebration' event for locals."
On the south end of town, Cheryl Walton, owner of the Cup-N-Cake coffee shop, is stocking up for the eclipse. Because of lack of space at the shop, she has to keep supplies at her home. "I can't get to my dresser," she said.
"My sister and daughters are all coming to work with me," said Walton, who will be renting four refrigerators from Aaron's — conveniently located just across the parking lot.
She is also extending her hours to accommodate visitors — opening at 6 a.m. Friday, Aug. 18, and Monday, Aug. 21, and at 7 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and staying open until 7 p.m. each day.
At Phil's ACE Hardware, owner Phil Dale said it will be "business as usual." The store will extend its hours, but is not adding staff, and may close half a day on Monday.
He has been working to help supply the solar campers at the Organic Earthly Delights farm by ordering tents and sleeping bags. In return, they are allowing him to park a 48-foot freezer semi trailer full of ice at their farm to supply their campers and his Madras store.
"My biggest problem is storage. We have two more orders of freight until then, and I've ordered extra propane, water containers, fire extinguishers, and anything to do with camping," Dale said.
The hardware store also has solar eyeglasses on sale for $1, with proceeds being donated to the Children's Miracle Network.
In Metolius, Desert Inn owner Larry Semm will be offering a full menu, and are adding breakfast, with coffee and rolls from 6-8 a.m., and a full breakfast buffet outside from 8-11 a.m. He has hired 14 extra staff to handle the crowd.
In the Desert Inn's beer garden, there will be a live band on Saturday through Monday. "I've ordered a bunch of extra staff and have a 15-by-8-foot refrigerated truck for supplies, and had an 8-by-16-foot cooler installed," Semm said.
In Culver, Round Butte Inn owner Greg Foland is planning a block party on Aug. 18-21, with D Street on the south side of the store blocked off. There will be a beer truck, music piped in, and a 20-by-30-foot tent to handle the crowd arriving for the eclipse and the annual Culver Crawdad Fest, which is Aug. 19.
They've extended hours to 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and he has hired 12 more bartenders, four security people and four more to check people's ID for alcohol consumption.
Figaro's Pizza in Madras is still making plans, but manager Sue Shockey said the pizza menu will be shortened, and they will offer pizza by the slice, which they normally don't do.
Raul Arriaga, owner of Rio Restaurant, said they would shorten their menu to five items, bring in extra staff, and keep the same hours as usual. "I've got a big refrigerated container coming for extra supplies," he said.
Joe Davis, at Black Bear Diner, admitted, "No matter what I do, it doesn't seem to be enough."
He's cut the diner's menu from 200 to 35 items, rented porta potties, is sharing the chamber's refrigerated trailer along with Dairy Queen and Geno's to store extra food, and has ordered 60 cases of French fries.
"I'm estimating we'll be waiting on 1,200-1,400 people a day, and we only seat 133, so the wait will be about 45 minutes. I've rented a golf cart to pick up employees, and to get food from Oregon Beef and the chamber truck," he said.
As hectic as it will be, Davis was still enthusiastic. "It's going to be a chance for thousands to see Central Oregon and what a beautiful place we are living in, and hopefully, some will plan to be back next summer."
Pop-Up Food Court
A pop-up food court is being sponsored by the "A Greener World" nonprofit group, which promotes sustainable farming and consumption of local food, in the parking lot next to the Madras Post Office.
Executive Director Andrew Gunther, whose son Cameron farms and makes English banger sausages in Culver, said the food court "will lift some of the weight off the downtown restaurants, which are trying to feed the crowds of people coming."
He said of their 30 spots, all but seven are filled so far. His son will bring his Banging Bangers food truck, there will be a tamale vendor, shave ice vendor, booths selling nuts, jellies, and all kinds of locally produced foods.
"We want to thank the city of Madras for all the hard work it did to make this happen," Gunther said.
"It's a community space to support local food vendors and entrepreneurs, and musicians are welcome, and local education nonprofits trying to raise funds. It will be a fun event to showcase Central Oregon and leave visitors with a really good impression of Madras when they go home," he said.
Anyone interested in being a vendor, musician, or holding a fundraiser may contact A Greener World Food Court at 541-526-1119.