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Cape Cod’s summer is off and running, despite chilly start

People walking along Commercial Street in Provincetown Monday dressed as if it were March, not May.
People walking along Commercial Street in Provincetown Monday dressed as if it were March, not May.Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe

PROVINCETOWN — Just off of Commercial Street, travelers walked along MacMillan Pier to the Boston ferry Monday morning holding umbrellas aloft as they pulled wheeled suitcases behind them.

Some walked by the shop of Geoff Semonian, who has run his one-man woodcarving business out of a 10- by 10-foot shack on the pier for the past eight years.

“I feel like a farmer, [given] how the weather affects the retail side of my business,” he said.

Semonian, who carves handcrafted placards for businesses and street signs for residents, said he relies on foot traffic from passengers headed to the ferry. But with cloudy skies, rain, and 50 degree temperatures, he was the only one in his shop Monday morning.

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Semonian said he couldn’t blame visitors for not stopping in as he pulled up the cuff of his right pant leg to reveal bright red thermal leggings.

“In this weather, they run past,” he said.

The mostly sunny Memorial Day weekend turned dismal Monday, but the summer season on Cape Cod is off to a promising start, according to a business leader.

“It was a pretty busy weekend, probably one of the busiest we’ve had in a while,” Wendy Northcross, executive director of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

Visitors arrived early in the week, with some opening their summer homes and some checking into inns and hotels on Tuesday and Wednesday, Northcross said.

But the rain prompted many of them to pack up and leave on Monday morning, she said.

“It’s always amazing to me that people are in a hurry to get here, then in a hurry to leave,” she said.

People walking along Commercial Street in Provincetown wore warm coats with hoods up Monday, dressed like they were ready to brave the edge of the Atlantic in March rather than celebrate the unofficial start of summer.

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Among them was Andy Ambrosius of Chicago, who was returning home after a weekend stay. Perhaps conditioned by his hometown’s often extreme weather, he did not let Monday’s chill and rain dampen his spirits.

“We were blessed with two wonderful weather days,” he said, before hurrying off to the ferry.

Visitors — including Andy Ambrosius, 28, of Chicago — didn’t linger in the foul weather as they headed for the ferry in Provincetown.
Visitors — including Andy Ambrosius, 28, of Chicago — didn’t linger in the foul weather as they headed for the ferry in Provincetown.Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe

While Saturday and Sunday were more springlike and pleasant, Memorial Day weekend celebrations in Provincetown were dampened when a three-alarm fire on Saturday evening left several businesses shuttered and their employees out of work.

Julie Knapp, the owner of Twisted, a Commercial Street pizzeria, said she was working to help connect those workers with jobs elsewhere in Provincetown. She estimated that 100 workers were sidelined by the fire.

A group of local business owners launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for the town’s volunteer fire department to buy more firefighting equipment, she said.

As of Monday evening, the fund-raiser had collected more than $7,775.

“We’re all in shock, and the businesses are trying to cope,” Knapp said.

Many of Provincetown’s businesses were already grappling with labor issues — along with those in other towns on the Cape — when they did not get the visas needed to bring seasonal foreign workers to help them out during the busy summer season.

Last fall, Congress failed to reauthorize an exemption that had removed returning foreign workers from the annual H-2B visa cap.

That meant that some shops were left shorthanded. The Provincetown restaurant Bubalas by the Bay, for example, was unable to get any of the 20 visas it sought for workers from Jamaica and the Philippines, said manager Oriana Conklin.

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“We’ve had the same guys year after year, they’re loyal, and we don’t want to replace them,” Conklin said.

The restaurant’s workers were toiling extra hours to pick up the slack, she said.

In Hyannis on Monday, stores and eateries picked up some business thanks to the gray skies and cool temperatures.

Michael Krull, who has been the manager at Rendezvous Cafe and Creperie for five years, said the weekend business was mostly on par for the coffee shop, and the weather was a help. “Rainy days always give us a boost,” Krull said.

David Early said Monday’s weather changed plans for a visit to the beach with his wife, Diane. Instead, they toured the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, which was open with free admission to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth.

David Early said he’s been interested in learning more about the nation’s 35th president and sees Kennedy’s term as part of a brighter time in the country’s history.

“In that time, specifically, there was honor in serving the country,” he said. “I yearn for the days when people wanted to serve in public office.”

The museum’s director, John L. Allen, said Monday’s weather probably helped lift attendance. About 1,000 people visited, more than double the 400 to 500 visitors that the museum would see on a typical Memorial Day, he said.

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But Allen said he believes there is a renewed interest in Kennedy because he sought to “take on challenges to do greater good.”

“I feel people are are searching for an example to follow,” he said.

Howard Mirkin, of Chestnut Hill, smoked a cigar while standing on a mostly deserted on Commercial Street in Provincetown. Was the suboptimal weather making him miserable? “It’s not snowing,” he responded.
Howard Mirkin, of Chestnut Hill, smoked a cigar while standing on a mostly deserted on Commercial Street in Provincetown. Was the suboptimal weather making him miserable? “It’s not snowing,” he responded.Julia Cumes The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance
Matthew Mayfield is manager at the Governor Bradford restaurant in Provincetown. Its mix of indoor and outdoor seating gives it a steady business.
Matthew Mayfield is manager at the Governor Bradford restaurant in Provincetown. Its mix of indoor and outdoor seating gives it a steady business.Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Kathy McCabe can be reached at Katherine.McCabe @globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.