Brevard businesses bank on historic launch to reignite sales

Store owner: “It’s been almost devastating"

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses in Brevard County hope launching humans back into space will help reignite their economic rebound.

“It’s been almost devastating,” said Louis Morehead, owner of the Florida Key Lime Pie Company in Cocoa Beach.

Morehead said he closed his store for 44 days amid the height of the coronavirus outbreak, and he reopened last week.

"Our normal number of folks coming in the door were several hundred per day. Right now, we're only seeing about a dozen," he said.

Morehead and others said they are banking on May 27 launch to turn things around for their business.

That’s when NASA will send two American astronauts to the International Space Station -- the first time astronauts have lifted off from the Space Coast since 2011.

"This is the historic moment where we're back into launching humans from the U.S.," said Peter Cranis, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism.

Cranis said his agency's research showed the Space Coast would see upwards of 500,000 tourists come to see space shuttle launches.

He said families would spend $1,065 when they stayed overnight.

Daytrippers from Central Florida would spend about $142 during their stay.

In the age of coronavirus, he said he's not sure how many will come to watch this historic launch.

"Between Memorial Day and the launch, if we get about 100,000 visitors staying overnight, that could generate about $30 million in spending, which basically helps everyone," Cranis said.

Morehead said even with requirements that include wearing a mask and keeping socially distant, he's hopeful the launch will mean a profit.

"It would be nice to see some new faces," he said. "Folks coming into town to enjoy Cocoa Beach. Enjoy the launch and enjoy what we have to offer," he said.

Cranis said safety is the ultimate goal.

He suggested watching the launch from the beach areas, where he said it was easier to stay socially distant from people, or from a hotel.

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