CHATHAM — By the time Monday’s sunshine chased away the cold, wet weather, many Cape Cod merchants knew their Memorial Day weekend business wasn’t a washout.
“They couldn’t go to the beach, so they were out shopping,” Carol Sherman said of the tourists in her Monomoy Salvage, Antiques & Gifts store in Chatham, “and they were from all over.”
Visitors from Texas and California stalked the aisles alongside New Englanders making their annual trek to the Cape to begin a summer season that felt more like winter on Saturday and Sunday.
“We can take off the down jackets,” Wendy Northcross, chief executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said Monday afternoon as temperatures climbed into the 60s. “Going into the weekend, I told somebody we’d have the full array of weather Cape Cod has to offer, and we pretty much did.”
Because last week’s long-range forecast was more hospitable, many people “made reservations and held to them,” she said, and “we have the phenomenon of the new CapeFlyer train, so that was a nice shot in the arm.”
CapeFlyer, which brought passengers to Hyannis, carried a couple hundred people on the weekend’s first two trains, Northcross said.
Across the Cape, owners of stores and restaurants generally were positive about the weekend.
Sales were up 15 percent from a year ago at Chatham Natural Market, an organic food grocer with stores in Chatham and Dennisport, according to co-owner Rory Eames.
Donna Pihl, a volunteer at the First Parish Brewster Thrift, said business had not slowed since Friday. Across the street, outside Brewster’s general store, children plucked treats from plastic bags full of candy while an older couple vacationing from Scotland basked in the sun.
Charlene Mastromatteo of Bourne brought her husband and four grandchildren to the store for sweets Monday. Unable to go to the beach, she spent much of the weekend shopping. “I went to TJMaxx in Orleans and it was mobbed,” said Mastromatteo, who spends weekends in Brewster. “The Stop & Shop was busy, too.”
At the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, Char Priolo said the weekend rain “had people shopping in the stores and eating in the restaurants. And with the sun coming out today, people are out on the beaches milling around and it looks like a summer day. If this bodes well for the coming season, we’re in good shape.”
Meanwhile, at Pate’s Restaurant in Chatham, where seascape paintings grace the walls, owner Bob Gardner said 300 dinners were served Saturday, compared with 216 during Memorial Day weekend last year. Sunday’s 201 dinners matched last year.
“The weather was so lousy in April compared to a year ago, so I wasn’t really holding out too much hope for this weekend,” Gardner said. “But we did slightly better than we did last year, and that is certainly encouraging.”
In Sandwich, all rooms were booked in the three period buildings that make up the Belfry Inne & Bistro bed-and-breakfast complex, said owner Chris Wilson. Although there were a few cancellations, he said, the inn quickly filled the rooms.
“We’re definitely up a little more than last year,” he said.
The weather was more of a challenge for those seeking outdoor activities. Along the Bass River in Yarmouth on Monday, friends from Trenton, N.J., stored dozens of newly caught porgies and sea bass into plastic bags.
The men said they drove six hours to the Cape and paid $183 each to fish for two days, but the Saturday excursion aboard the Half Fast was canceled because of rough waters, said the boat’s captain, Rick Rozen. Instead, the men went out at 5 a.m. Sunday and again Monday.
“We got people back in Trenton saying, ‘When are they getting back,’ ” said Gilbert Blackwell, who organized the trip.
At Ship Shops in Yarmouth, where powerboat rentals typically cost about $280 for a half-day and about $395 for the full day, the bleak weekend slowed business. “The weather didn’t do us any good whatsoever,” said Alyson Taubert. “We had no business over the weekend. We have to have sunshine.”
Two men rented a boat for a few hours, she said, but there were no other rentals, a far cry from last year when Ship Shops had a record-breaking Memorial Day weekend. The store counts on holiday rentals to increase revenue over the summer, said Taubert, who now hopes for a better turnout on the Fourth of July.
The weather didn’t deter many visitors who traveled to the Cape to open their summer rentals.
“Just as everybody turns out to see the Red Sox on opening day, even if it’s raining, people are ready to kick things off on Memorial Day,” said Mary Maguire, Massachusetts spokeswoman for AAA. “Regardless of the weather, they’re ready to have fun.”
Many tourists make Memorial Day plans “well in advance,” she said, adding that “come rain, wind, or traffic, they’re headed out, no matter what, which I think is one of the great things about New Englanders. And we certainly had it all: the rain, the wind, and from what I understand, the traffic.”
While gasoline costs can affect travel plans, Maguire said a survey AAA conducted in the past few weeks in conjunction with IHS Global Insight of Lexington showed that prices at the pump would not affect 62 percent of respondents.
Although prices have been rising, Maguire said that “as of last week, when people were departing for Memorial Day weekend, we were about 15 cents lower than at this time last year.”
For Cape businesses, however, rising gasoline prices can be helpful.
“We kind of use that as a tag line: a short trip to far away,” Northcross said. “People feel that they’ve gone farther away than they actually have. They still want to take a trip, but it’s usually closer to home.”