Record crowds drive record sales

Published 1:28 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Candyland tourism means full restaurants, stores

Record crowds at Christmas in Candyland drove record traffic for local restaurants and businesses this past weekend, and managers say they are gearing up for another big weekend ahead.

C.J.’s Grille owner Casey Jones said that they were so busy on Saturday night that they had to close early on Sunday because he was running out of food.

“We are usually always pretty busy on Thursday and Friday,” Jones said. “What Candyland really helped out on was our business on Saturday. With it being football season, it really puts a damper on our business on Saturdays, and if Auburn or Alabama are playing that weekend, forget about having people come in. So it really helped on a Saturday that we may or may not have been busy.”

Jones said that he was caught by surprise by the traffic, and ran out of food on Sunday.

“Because the past two weekends there were not that many people because of the rain, so we had no track record to go off of,” he said.

Sunday at 4 p.m., Jones had to close the store because he said that he was making more people mad than happy.

“I was supposed to stay open till 7 p.m.,” Jones said. “It was starting to make people mad that we didn’t have everything on the menu, so I even started adding stuff to the menu on the spot of stuff that I just knew how to make.”

Jones said that he is better prepared for this coming weekend.

“We are definitely more prepared for this weekend,” Jones said. “And we plan to stay open until 7 p.m.”

The newest downtown restarant, Milky Moos, has yet to have a break from the flood of people rushing to get their ice cream, owner Lisa Gray said.

“I would say that since we are so new, I think that the initial push of great business is over,” Gray said. “But now that we have Candyland going on, it is like another push is here and it is amazing for us.”

Gray said that her sales percentage has increased 35 percent from Sun., Dec. 8, to Sun., Dec. 15.

“We had so many people come in this past Sunday that our sales percentage, compared to that last Sunday, was increased by 35 percent,” Gray said. “It has been a steady increase of the amount of people that come in on Sundays.”

Gray said that this has been the best store opening out of all of her stores.

“Candyland has definitely helped with our opening,” Gray said. “Andalusia has just been amazing and this is honestly the best store opening that we have ever had.”

Allen Walker, owner of Walker Business on the Court Square, said that a lot of people are surprised to see a Christmas shop in Andalusia and they get excited.

“Candyland has had a tremendous effect on the traffic our business has seen,” Walker said. “It has been a great exposure to our store from people that have visited from out of town. A lot of folks are surprised to see a Christmas shop in Andalusia and get excited. They say they wish they would have known about our store earlier and join our mailing lists so they are in the know about upcoming promotions and new items.”

Walker said that last Saturday, they saw the largest traffic day of the year.

“The energy on the square was amazing, It was very exciting to see so many people downtown and visiting the local retailers,” Walker said. “I would say 90 percent of the people that visited left with something from Walker’s.”

People from outside of Covington County want to stay connected with Walker’s store and even reach out online, Walker said.

“We have also had folks from out of town that have visited with us during Candyland reach out online and give us great reviews on our Facebook page and also Google,” Walker said. “It’s also great to see that Andalusia/Candyland recognized by national publications and other media. I think this will draw larger crowds and the effects felt through local retail, restaurants and lodging will grow as the event grows.”

Big Mike’s Steakhouse, another downtown restaurant, had a record number of people served here, even when compared to its other Alabama locations on Friday and Saturday.

“We had 607 customers on Friday and 615 customers on Saturday night,” manager Patrick Kirkland said. “For us to only be open for two years and that to happen, it is pretty phenomenal.”

Kirkland said that when they were at their busiest point, the wait time was two hours.

“That was just for the time for our waiters and waitresses to be able to clean off tables for new customers,” Kirkland said. “A lot of it had to do with instead of us having a lot of two tops or four tops, we were having a lot of six to eight top families come in.”

The restaurant had used so much inventory on Saturday that Kirkland had to go to different grocery stores to restock during the night.

“I had to go out to three different groceries stores where we get our inventory just to make sure that we had enough,” Kirkland said. “When I returned, there were already about a hundred people in the waiting area and it started overflowing into the bar.”

Kirkland said that the last plate they cooked was started at 10:45 p.m., and they were supposed to close at 10 p.m.

“We started cooking at 3:45 p.m.,” Kirkland said. “And then finished cooking 45 minutes after we were technically closed.”

Kirkland said that this weekend they are expecting another huge turnout.

“We are expecting it now, so we are prepared,” Kirkland said. “I think Candyland is such a huge asset to Andalusia and especially our business.”


Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce director Chrissie Duffy said that this past weekend was the largest turnout that they have ever had.

“I do think that Candyland has a positive impact on our economy,” Duffy said. “We haven’t been blessed recently with the weather, but since the sun was out this past weekend people really showed up. We are seeing sunny skies in the forecast this weekend as well.”

Duffy said that she wanted to make Candyland as inexpensive as possible for all of the families that come.

“We want people to spend as little as possible so they can be able to have a nice evening by going to Candyland and then going to dinner or a movie,” she said.