Visitor's Bureau: Country Cupboard closing not affecting tourism

·4 min read

Feb. 27—LEWISBURG — The Susquehanna Valley Visitor's Bureau located next to the former Country Cupboard receives 10-12,000 visitors a year, according to executive director Andrew Miller.

Miller said Country Cupboard was not the main pull for people to visit the visitor's bureau next door.

"One thing we realized people who came to Country Cupboard came specifically for them. To eat, shop, dine," said Miller.

The location had a "steady" motor coach business that dwindled through the years. "In their heyday there were 2,000 buses going at one point," Miller said. During the pandemic that dropped to around 700.

"The restaurant was more or less a rest stop on their way through," he said. "We had more traffic from people coming once they found out the restaurant was closing."

Miller said the visitor's bureau expected a large number of people inquiring about the restaurant closing.

"Of course we'll take that opportunity to introduce people to the area," Miller said.

The good news, he said, is tourism is still being directed locally despite Country Cupboard's closing.

The current location of the bureau has no impending plans to move. Country Cupboard owns the property and Miller said if the restaurant is sold the location would be too.

Chris Baylor, CEO of Baylor-Hamm, owners of the property, assured the visitor's bureau board they would not need to worry about moving.

"Chris was awesome. He contacted me 15 minutes before the press conference" to close the restaurant, he said.

Miller said he was told there is no rush to relocate.

Miller keeps his eye on traveling trends, he said, to determine what is 'normal.' He does yearly comparisons.

"We're getting close to business-as-usual," Miller said, noting hotel room rental figures are getting close to 2019 indicators.

Miller was excited for the impending PIAA championship at Bucknell University. "This year we're welcoming them back which is great."

Miller said the visitor's bureau has a good working relationship with the university. Bucknell alumni events may pose a challenge for hotels but he hopes second half of 2022 will "get back to that normal routine of seasonal travel."

"Outdoor recreation is taking off," he said. "Went through the roof" during the pandemic.

"We're really embracing cycling tourism as outdoor recreation," Miller said.

He mentioned the 2021 unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley cycling event running through Union County. Miller said past infusion of money because of the event was around $1.7 million. He was told that was closer to $2.3 million in money invested into the area because of unPAved.

The 2022 event will be on October 9 with details to be unveiled in March and open registration in April.

The visitor's bureau, with over 36,000 "likes" on Facebook, has over 300 members with 230 locations in the tri-county area with brochure racks and will have a presence at Community Partnership, 328 Market Street in Lewisburg next to Sweet Frog, new home for Lewisburg Downtown Partnership (LDP) and CommUnity Zone.

Miller said the bureau is working to provide the new office space with a brochure rack and pictures of Lewisburg and the region.

"Almost like a gallery," said Miller. "So people can learn more about the area and Lewisburg."

According to Cynthia Peltier, director of CommUnity Zone, the visitor's bureau is not the only addition coming to the office.

Peltier said Baylor is providing the space with items from Country Cupboard, such as computers, printers, and a stage.

"He's (Baylor) been incredible," said Peltier, who said Baylor has also donated lighting to Campus Theatre in Lewisburg.

Peltier noted the "generosity of the Baylor's. He's very easygoing about it."

"I think what we've always wanted to do is have a place people can just walk down the street and find out how to get involved. It's like a one stop shop," Peltier said.

Miller said the bureau will provide training for volunteers at Community Partnership to act as a community ambassador of sorts.

"I believe tourism begins in your own back yard," said Miller

Miller said he loves the relationship with LDP and CommUnity Zone and noted tourism spending is the same thing as economic development. Visitor spending in 2019 combined between Snyder, Northumberland and Union counties was $405 million.

"People are surprised how much visitor spending impacts an area. It's not made on an assembly line," Miller noted. "Lewisburg is one of the great colors of the quilt of the Susquehanna River Valley.

The more people we get on board the more people we can attract to the area."

Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, California, and Massachusetts are the top ten states where online traffic on the bureau website comes from.

Peltier said she feels positive about training others "how to answer questions about what's happening in this area."

Miller hopes to set a model for other communities to do the same thing. He said conversations are happening about having a presence at Susquehanna University, who soon will be having a storefront in Selinsgrove.

"Ideally we'd like to have a presence in every town," said Miller. Comaraderie and partnership" between the region, Miller said, is the goal.