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'We're Surviving,' Business Owners On Boston Marathon Route Optimistic For October Race

HOPKINTON (CBS) - The Boston Marathon is big business for all eight cities and towns it runs through. The economic impact is believed to be more than $200 million. So not having it on Patriots' Day two years in a row has had a ripple effect financially.

"Our Christmas is the Boston Marathon," Dan Fitzgerald, co-founder of the Heartbreak Hill Running Company, told WBZ-TV.

Coffee shops in Hopkinton capitalize on Marathon Monday as a chance to caffeinate a crowd full of newcomers near the start line.

"Just being outside of town three miles from the start line is a real big thing," said Jeff Doherty, owner of Angel's Café. "People are all excited and want to go see the marathon. They don't go by here regularly, but to go to the marathon, they're passing by."

One brewery in Framingham kicks off its beer season on Marathon Monday.

"That's one day where you see everything downtown Framingham could and should be," said Sam Hendler, co-owner of Jack's Abby Craft Lagers.

According to Hendler, the brewery customarily sends out hundreds of kegs and cases of beer to bars and restaurants along the race route during Patriots' Day weekend. But, when the marathon moved to its virtual format in 2020, Hendler had to try and re-direct some of those sales to grocery stores.

"We're surviving," he told WBZ. "We'll make it to the other side of this whole mess, but for a lot of restaurants that was really, really critical sales they'll never recover."

J.P. Licks has an ice cream store on Central Street in Wellesley near the halfway point of the marathon.

District manager Gina Grieshaber said the chain typically has "all hands on deck" to scoop ice cream for spectators.

"There's so many people coming through," said Grieshaber. "We even remove our tables and chairs to get the lines in and out."

She said Marathon Monday could be a top-10 sales day for the year at several J.P. Licks locations when the weather cooperates. In 2020, however, the company braced for that to not be the case when the race was postponed.

"I think everyone sort of put aside the fact we were losing sales," said Grieshaber. "We were just losing that sense of community, I think that was a big hit for us."

Mile 20 is where Heartbreak Hill Running Company has set up shop since 2012 in Newton.

"Our company is named after the hardest part of America's oldest marathon," said co-founder Dan Fitzgerald.

According to Fitzgerald, a bulk of the company's business had historically been built around the days leading up to the marathon. That includes retail sales and training.

"That energizes the business really from December through April," said Fitzgerald. "It peaks through the race when people flood into the city, and they want to have a piece of Heartbreak, or a piece of the Boston Marathon to take home."

Fitzgerald says he spent what was supposed to be Marathon Monday last April launching a new website to grow the business online.

But, that remedy doesn't replace seeing runners on the road to Boston.

According to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, spectators and visitors at the marathon and marathon-related events spent a total of $32.2 million in 2017.

Business owners along the route sound cautiously optimistic for their return this fall.

"It's another struggle like a marathon," said Fitzgerald. "We were kind of able to fight through and get here, and we're excited to see the real thing back."

"Will it be the same? Who knows," said Hendler. "Hopefully, in a perfect world, maybe that will be one of the days where it really feels like you can take a breath and be like 'maybe we're kind of past this thing'."

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