Restaurants and Stores Filled To The Brim

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Date: Feb 25, 2001
Source: Grand Forks Herald
Submitted By: Gina

Stephen J. Leem Herald Staff Writer

Oh-My-God, was Shane Clauthier's quick, dramatic response to how much the concert affected business Sunday. He works in The Buckle clothing store in Columbia Mall and had only a moment to talk before he was faced again by customers.

They mostly were Backstreet Boys fans, all afternoon until 6 p.m. closing. It was part of a retail burst estimated to mean $500,000 or more to the community from fan-related spending outside the concert.

Manager Michelle Halverson recently transferred up from The Buckle store in Fargo and had been missing the high sales volumes down there compared to the Grand Forks store. I called the Fargo store today and told them I felt like I was back in Fargo, at West Acres on a busy day, she said. Looking at her receipts, she figured she did at least twice a normal Sunday's sales. Holly Purpur, 15, was checking out bright-colored bikinis in The Buckle with friends, Lisa Ganchar, 15, and her sister, Krista Ganchar, 14.

They came down from Winnipeg, driven by the sisters' mother, Bev Ganchar.

The only band she likes better is N'Sync, Purpur said. And shopping is nearly as much fun as going to the concert.

They shopped, even though the historically low exchange value of the Canadian dollar makes the concert tickets and clothes expensive for Canadians, Bev Ganchar said.

We are only buying what we can't get in Winnipeg, Bev Ganchar said. A $60 concert ticket costs her about $90 in Canadian script, Ganchar said.

In the Ritz Camera shop in Columbia Mall, lots of disposal cameras aimed for concert use were sold Sunday, and store employees figure many will be back today to have the film developed.

People came from hundreds of miles away, some driving in and out the same day. Motels in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks reported being all booked, which is unusual for a Sunday night and due to the concert.

We have one guest from Missouri, said a front desk employee at the Ramada Inn. All rooms were filled, most by families with young girls bent on seeing the Backstreet Boys, motel officials said.

Five females from Omaha hit Grand Forks on Sunday as part of a multi-state, two-concert odyssey to hear the band.

Kayla Meyer, 13, and Kim Meschede, 14, had on matching zebra-stripe pants, to hear the Boys for the second night in a row. They call themselves, trackers.

Trackers is like groupies, or something, Kayla Meyer said, after eating pizza at Happy Joe's with other Boys fans. Not exactly, but the girls - and their mothers - had followed the band, making 1,000-mile-plus circuit over the weekend to do it.

Saturday, they and Kim's sister, Laura, 20, were in Minneapolis at the Target Center, driven up by their mothers, Mary Mechede and Holly Meyer, in a minivan from their homes in Omaha. After the Target Center concert, they met Kato, who works in promoting the Boys; he gave them five free tickets to the Grand Forks concert, so they decided to drive up here so the mothers could attend the show, too.

We got a motel in Fargo, Mary Mechede said, because all the motel rooms in Grand Forks were booked. The girls changed into their concert clothes and we came up. You're only young once, I guess.

The five ate pizza at Happy Joe's with about 120 members of the Backstreet Boys fan club from Winnipeg, which had the place reserved for two hours Sunday.

It wouldn't ruin the fun to sit next to their mothers, the girls said.

O, they get into it, Laura Mechede said, laughing.

It's like the Osmonds when I was their age, Holly Meyer said.

Last year, the Omaha bunch saw the Boys in St. Louis, part of an audience of 76,000 in the TransWorld Dome.

Many fans came from across North Dakota, driving in and out the same day by parents.

Austin Ressler, 12, Jordan Stein, 12, Lindsey Sauer, 11 and Peggy Bowers, 11, rolled in to Grand Forks - via dad driving - about 4 p.m. Sunday from Bismarck, stopping first at the Amoco station next to the Alerus.

We're going to eat at Planet Pizza, said Austin.

The Amoco near the Alerus had a pretty busy afternoon, but toward concert time might actually lose drive-in traffic because the solid lines of vehicles heading in and out of the concert actually blocked passage into the store, employees said.

Boys' fans crowded Record Town Music store.

Lots of teeny boppers, said Wendy Saura, store employee. Backstreet Boys compact discs and T shirts is what they wanted.

All of Grand Forks was sold out of Backstreet Boys T-shirts, said store manager Matt Horras.

One purchase particular to many Backstreet Boys fans were roses. It's a thing to throw long-stemmed roses to Howie D., one of the band members, said Charles Wellman, 11, of Cavalier.

So he put out $3 of his own dough to buy a rose for his sister, Jessica, 16, to take to the concert, he said while they took a break from shopping at Target.

She will throw it on stage, maybe if we get close enough, Jessica said.

I'm just the crazy mother who gets to drive them there and pick them up, said Adrienne Wellman. She and her husband planned on maybe catching a movie during the concert.

Not all retail boats were lifted by the Backstreet Boys rising tide.

Zero, said Wayne Davis of any business he gained Sunday at his jewelry store in Columbia Mall. I thought I might snag a few (concert-related) customers, but no. It's mostly all going to restaurants and clothing stores.

The economic hit of at least 10,000 fans from outside the Grand Forks area coming to town for a day or more is estimated at between $500,000 and $1 million. Officials at the local Convention and Visitor's Bureau put official figures out: 60 percent of the 21,000 concert-goers - or 12,600 - were expected to be from out of town and will account for $622,000 spent in meals, gas and lodging alone in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

I was in Columbia Mall this afternoon and I was surprised at how many people were there, said Bruce Gjovig, director of UND's Center for Innovation. It was like Christmas again in Grand Forks. And they were carrying (shopping) bags. We have an events center economy now.

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