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Even with Delta, coyotes, and buckets of rain, many Cape businesses have enjoyed a steady summer

Maeve Mullaney, 5, admired the window display at Ducks In The Window in Chatham.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

After a season of incessant rain, the surging Delta variant, and even a coyote attack on the beach, it seemed like Tropical Storm Henri — arriving at the end of what should have been a busy seaside weekend — could officially have doomed the Cape’s summer.

But the message coming from business owners this week has been much more positive. Tourists have seemed undeterred by the weather, they said, last weekend and all summer long. Business has been steady and in some cases better than expected, with customers determined to make the most of their time off, whatever the challenges.


”I’ve been here for 41 years,” said Felisberto Barreiro, the owner of Alberto’s Ristorante in Hyannis. “This is the best summer we’ve had in 41 years so far.”

Others didn’t go quite that far. Many businesses have struggled to hire workers this summer, and the COVID outbreak in Provincetown created additional challenges for businesses on the Outer Cape. But through it all, there was a sense that people wanted to get out of their homes and escape to the beach after long months of restrictions and uncertainties, business owners said.

“People are excited to get back to the new norm, and they see the Cape as a safe spot to come visit and enjoy the beach,” said Paulo Paraguay, the owner of Kandy Korner in Hyannis. Paraguay, who was raised in Yarmouth, said business has been brisk at his store this season, and he’s already gearing up for the Cape’s “second summer” between the end of September and Columbus Day.

Liz Coakley and her daughters Ayla, 5, (left) and Skylar, 3, purchased candy, souvenirs, and postcards at Murphy’s General Store in Harwich Port.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Just down Route 28 in Harwich Port, Jay and Heather Skowronek, the owners of Murphy’s General Store, said they’ve had a “very busy” summer.

“We honestly don’t know where all of these people are coming from,” said Jay.


Heather predicted the wave of business will continue for at least the next month, with lots of visitors still to come. And with more companies putting off their return-to-office dates, the Cape could stay busy into the fall as people work remotely.

“We saw more people than expected coming in May and June, and I think that’s probably going to carry on into September,” she said. “From what I’ve heard from other people, there’s still a lot of vacation rentals that are booked into September and even October. ... A lot of people are still around.”

Sarah Crowell photographed her son, Tristan, 4, as he posed as a pirate outside Mrs. Mitchell’s on Main in Hyannis.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

The story grows a bit more complicated the closer you get to Provincetown.

After more than 100,000 revelers descended there over the Fourth of July weekend, an outbreak of more than 1,000 infections raised the first alarm nationally about breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated individuals. Just eight people were eventually hospitalized, and zero deaths have been connected to the cluster. But the news — and growing concerns about the threat of breakthroughs — was a jolt.

The outbreak was ultimately a success story for the vaccines, protecting people from severe illness and death. But fears of a new surge put a damper on what was initially shaping up to be an extremely busy post-pandemic summer.

“It was gangbusters,” once the state lifted restrictions on restaurants around Memorial Day weekend, said Bob Montano, the owner of Montano’s Restaurant in Truro. “It was like people were less concerned finally about corona, and were ready to let go and get back into their usual routines.”


After the uptick in COVID cases, he saw a much higher number of takeout orders, which typically bring in less money from alcohol sales. Though it has still been a “very busy summer” for the restaurant, the cluster was a setback, he said.

“It seems like Delta came along and kind of put a lot of pause in some people, so it bumped us backwards a little bit,” Montano said. “Although our numbers are still great, when you have a high percentage of to-go, it’s obviously going to lower your check average. ...The number of people coming through the doors is still very high, but the dollars sometimes get affected by that.”

Dan Murray, the general manager of the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, said his restaurant didn’t see “much of a drop-off” in business, even after the outbreak in nearby Provincetown.

“At the beginning of the summer, we were told everything was going to be OK, and so people made plans,” he said.

From left, Katherine Civitello, Kara Prichard, and Cara O’Toole shopped for gifts at Murphy’s General Store in Harwich Port.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Murray said the Beachcomber has scaled down the live music options this summer but now plans to stay open until Oct. 2 — weeks beyond the usual closure right after Labor Day.

“For better or worse,” Murray said of the pandemic, “I think a lot of people are just over it.”

Still, sales skidded at some Outer Cape businesses amid the outbreak. Rob Anderson, owner of the Canteen, a waterfront restaurant in Provincetown, said the infections and the national media attention that came with them “deflated” sales in July and cut business in half well into August. A succession of rainy weekends — which prevented customers from eating outside — didn’t help, either.


“There was a lot of expectations and excitement about how busy it was going to be, and things seemed to be going in that direction,” Anderson said. “And then it just petered out, sort of like going out in a whimper rather than a bang.”

Staffing shortages and astronomical housing costs also posed challenges. Karina Guevara, the owner of six gift shops and clothing boutiques in Chatham and Provincetown, said the decline in the number of international students working on the Cape affected her retail business.

Even though the Biden administration approved an increase in the number of H2-B seasonal, non-agricultural worker visas in April, bureaucratic hurdles and COVID travel restrictions continued to make it difficult for seasonal workers to enter the United States.

Luis Harnes poured wine for guests at Alberto’s Restorante in Hyannis.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Paul Niedzwiecki, chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants especially have gotten squeezed by labor shortages. Some places are working with half the staff they normally have in the summer, forcing them to close one or two days per week or shut their doors for a lunch or dinner service.

Still, many owners remain optimistic, given high vaccination rates in Massachusetts and the consistent demand from tourists this season.

“We just had a customer come up from North Carolina, specifically for our store, and he was like, it was just a great excuse to get out of North Carolina,” said Anna Nelson, the assistant buyer at Ducks in the Window, a store in Chatham that claims to have the largest selection of rubber ducks in the world.


Guevara said she’s hopeful about the future, despite the challenges.

“Everyone is happy to be out,” she said. “There’s a lot more hope. People are willing to spend ... more easily this year than previous years.

“They’re going to be shopping next season for sure.”