Fall Pilgrimage helps boost downtown economy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — With Fall Pilgrimage come people. And those people bring money.

Several downtown businesses saw an increase in business during the two week tourist season.

Fall Pilgrimage began Sept. 26 and wrapped up Oct. 10. And while tourists were in town to tour houses, they also had to eat, sleep and shop.

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At Sun, Moon & Stars on Main Street in Natchez, owner Erin Myers said she saw a good crowd of out-of-towners in her shop.

She said typically Spring Pilgrimage is more lucrative for her than Fall Pilgrimage, but she was happy with her business.

“We saw both groups and individuals coming in to the shop during Pilgrimage,” she said. “Every thing helps, and we were happy to see people in town.”

Individual ticket sales were up 11 percent over last year and group tours were also higher than the pervious Fall Pilgrimage, said Marsha Colson, director of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours.

Myers said Fall Pilgrimage falls right in line with the time her shop starts transitioning into the holiday season. She said that always helps bring in business.

“(The tourist) enjoyed looking at just about everything,” Myers said. This is when we are getting ready for the holidays, so that also helps increase business.”

On Franklin Street, however, Annette Holder at Mrs. Holder’s Antiques said things were quiet, but she wasn’t surprised.

“I think we had an increase in group tours and bus tours,” Holder said. “When they come in like that, they aren’t always given time to shop. It is more of a structured schedule for them.”

Holder said she gets business from individual tourists more than tour groups.

“Restaurants and such probably saw an increase this year,” she said.

At Natchez Coffee Company, owner Rene Adams said tourists packed a healthy appetite when they came to town.

“You could definitely tell it was Pilgrimage, and something was going on,” she said. “We saw a lot of people who came in the middle of the afternoon for lunch.

“These two weeks had a huge impact on our numbers for October. They are definitely better than June, July and August.”

Adams attributed her increase in business to more feet on the sidewalks. She said anytime there are more people on the streets, businesses benefit.

Since Natchez Coffee Company is more than just a coffee shop serving breakfast and lunch and snacks, Adams said she saw a steady flow of people throughout the day.

“When people are walking the streets, we do very well,” she said. “(Tourists) were very complimentary and enjoyed dropping in while they were downtown.”

Clif Brumfield, owner of Pearl Street Pasta said he saw his fair share of happy tourists as well.

“What we saw was an increase during our lunch crowd,” Brumfield said. “It actually seemed a little bit better than last year.”

While eating lunch at Pearl Street Pasta, Brumfield said tourists were inquisitive about Natchez and seemed really pleased with their visit.

“What we saw a lot of was people would came in one day and then came back again a couple of days later,” he said. “When they came back they were happy being in Natchez, talking about how pretty the town is and how great it is to be able to walk in downtown.”