ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All around downtown St. Petersburg you’ll see signs it’s race weekend.
And while most of the action takes place around the track, downtown businesses hope to capitalize and many of them need every dollar they get.
James Ryan’s Kalamazoo Olive Company has been on Central Avenue for ten years, selling fresh olive oil and gourmet foods.
And he does what he can to embrace the race even though some locals might be scared away from downtown by the large Grand Prix crowds.
“We have a Grand Prix sale. We tell our customers that downtown is definitely open for business on Grand Prix weekend,” said Ryan.
As downtown development grows, rents are going up forcing some businesses to move.
That’s what Ryan says happened to him when a New York developer bought his building.
“It’s frustrating when you have a home that you anticipated being in indefinitely.”
Bars and restaurants may benefit from the race crowds more than retail stores. At Tony’s Pizza they say they stayed open until 3 a.m. after last year’s race.
“There are a lot of people coming, happy people. And they want to eat good food and all that,” said owner Vee Dervishi.
Race organizers say the Grand Prix is Pinellas County’s largest spectator event of the year.
It also brings the area millions of dollars worth of television exposure. In all, organizers say the race accounts for $40 million in economic impact.
“Remember the City of St. Petersburg has over 300 major events in downtown St. Pete every year. The Grand Prix is one of those, obviously it gets a lot of traction because of the TV time. But we are proud of be part of the community,” said Ryan.
Another reason it could be a big money making weekend for so many? The weather!
A perfect forecast will only help keep these shops and restaurants busy.