Memorial Day Weekend means the start of the summer tourism and beach season on Cape Ann, and businesses are ready to throw open their doors and pull in customers, despite a stormy winter that wreaked havoc on Rockport’s Bearskin Neck, sloshed flood water across Essex’s roadways and tore apart Gloucester’s iconic Good Harbor footbridge.
A hot dog mascot waved customers into Essex River Dogs for Eric Vennerbeck’s first day of service last weekend. The Ipswich native, — who returned from a television career in Los Angeles, bought the small house at 162 Main St. in Essex, and renovated and converted it into a hot dog and ice cream take out stand— was delighted to be in business.
“When I bought this place, I fell in love,” Vennerbeck said. “I love hot dogs, but I just thought this is fun. It’s more the environment and the fun of it.”
Since its opening, the neighborhood kids have kept the joyous Vennerbeck busy, leaning out the take out window to smile and offer up dogs. One group came to buy dogs three times in just one day, he said. The shop features three types of hot dogs, including a vegetarian one, and toppings include feta, pineapple, chopped tomatoes and the usual suspects.
The new business’s seeming success is not a unique situation on Cape Ann this year. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce has received roughly 35 percent more calls inquiring about hotels and inns this month compared to last year. According to Robert Heidt, CEO at the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, damaged or unused storefronts have filled up, and veteran business owners are reinvigorated for the season. “We’re starting to see where there might have been some vacancies in shops, new shops have come in, different shops have moved around too, which is really nice to see because to fill those store fronts really just creates the ultimate area to visit,” Heidt said.