Start your spending: Businesses hit by pandemic hope to see big boost during Daytona 500

Small business owners prepare for race weekend

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The stands at the Daytona International Speedway will look a little different this week with 30,000 people in attendance instead of the usual 110,000.

Even so, officials think this will be the largest in-person sporting event since the start of the pandemic.

Small businesses in the area are hoping to cash in on that. Hotel rooms usually sell out quickly during race week, giving a huge boost to local mom and pop resorts, like Perry’s Ocean Edge.

“The 500 week is usually the best portion of February and carries people through from the dull of November, December and January,” said Bob Davis, CEO of the Volusia County Lodging and Hospitality Association.

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While the hotels can usually depend on the races for revenue, so far, they’re only feeling a fraction of that this year. Davis said overall, for these hotels, business has decreased by almost two-thirds over the last year.

“Whatever we get, we’re hopeful for and we’re thankful for. It’s not going to be anywhere near where it’s been in the past,” he said.

Some local gift shops are seeing more customers come through their doors, though.

Karen Cook has been managing NASCAR 2000 gift shop for the last ten years and said she always looks forward to speed week.

“It gets really busy around this time of year. We have return people, we have customers coming back that I’ve known for the last 10 years that I’ve been here, so I’ve become friends with a lot of the customers at this point,” she said.

Cook said after a huge lull in business last year, things started picking back up with the Rolex races. She said the shop poured several thousand dollars into merchandise to stock up for this weekend, usually their busiest sales weekend of the year. She said customers have told her this week they’re making a point to visit the smaller shops this year, too.

“We had customers in here the last couple of days that are actually helping with the small businesses as to going out to the track to spend. So for us, it’s tremendous,” she said.

Chip Wile, the president of the Daytona International Speedway, said they’ve re-engaged with a lot of businesses in the area this week trying to help them attract customers.

“A lot of the small local businesses in town, we’ve provided them some assets for them to put out in their restaurants and bars,” he said.

Wile said even though there will still be a crowd, his staff is on top of safety protocols.

“We’ll take guests’ temperature as they enter the facility, we’ll give each guest a two-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, we’ll have digital tickets,” he said.

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