When Cruisin’ Gratiot rolls around June 15, it won’t just be to the benefit of classic car owners and enthusiasts. With the cruise comes the foot traffic and exposure that boosts local businesses.
“There are many economic advantages to the cruise,” said Councilwoman Wendy Richardson, who teaches business and business-related courses at Oakland Community College and works for the Eastern Michigan Small Business and Technology Center in Sterling Heights. “Obviously, anytime you can take advantage of the walking-traffic is fantastic. You’re going to have people from all over southeast Michigan, the county and the state in the city on cruise day.”
In 2002, the Strategic Edge conducted a study on the economic impact of Cruisin’ Gratiot on the City of Eastpointe. At the time, the city covered many of the costs associated with the cruise and commissioned the study to justify the expenditures for public services and other costs. The study found that, of the people interviewed, approximately 75 percent of cruisers spent more money at Cruisin’ Gratiot than they did on a typical Saturday.
Additionally, when asked what they spent money on during the cruise, 75 percent of cruisers mentioned spending money on food or at restaurants, 52 percent mentioned souvenirs or logo merchandise, 45 percent mentioned spending money on gas and 25 percent mentioned spending money on other merchandise.
According to the report, the median amount spent in each of those categories was between $20-$30 and a “vast majority” of cruisers reported spending approximately $100 total on cruise day and at the events leading up to cruise day.
The study found similar results in food and restaurant spending from spectators during cruise day, with 73 percent of cruise-goers surveyed reporting they spent money on food during the cruise. The numbers dropped in other areas, with only 33 percent reporting spending on logo merchandise, 13 percent reporting spending on gas and 13 percent reporting spending on other merchandise. The average spent by spectators in each of the areas was between $12 and $50, with a median of $50 spent overall.
The survey also looked at businesses and reported that, of the businesses in the city that responded to the survey and were open on cruise day, 20.8 percent reported an increase in business, with a median increase of $500. Approximately 50 percent of businesses that responded said that they suffered revenue losses on cruise day of approximately $1,000; however, 19.6 percent reported closing on the day of the cruise and 8.9 percent reported reduced hours.
Still experts say the cruise does help, even if it is not on the day of the event.
“The Gratiot Cruise in Eastpointe brings a lot of positives to the businesses here,” said Mary Van Haaren, the director of building, public works and community and economic development in Eastpointe. “It brings in a lot of traffic — people see the businesses and are reminded that they are here and then come back to the city after the cruise to go to those businesses.”
Iron Ivy owner Donna Jalosky agreed, saying she saw increased business during last year’s cruise and is looking forward to this year’s cruise being just as successful.
“Oh, we will definitely have extended hours for the cruise. We’ll be open as long as the cruise is going,” Jalosky said. “We had a lot of people come in last year during the cruise, so we are going to try and get a few artists to come in and maybe get some more license plate art to have on hand on cruise day.”
And businesses, even ones not directly on the cruise route, seem to agree.
“I really do think the cruise is great for business,” said Diane Reece-Seger, owner of Clovers Collision. “It brings a lot of walking business that you wouldn’t normally have. I think when people go up and down the street, if they see something they are interested in, they’ll come back during the cruise or after the cruise. We put our business card on the plaque drivers get, and every year, we have a few people come in and say they saw our business card and say they saw our card on the plaque.”
In general, some businesses, like financial institutions, aren’t likely to experience an increase in customers on cruise day, but many still support the community event. First State Bank, located at Nine Mile and Gratiot, does more than just support Cruisin’ Gratiot — they sponsor it and even host a car show during the week leading up to the cruise.
“As long as I’ve been here, we’ve been involved with the cruise. I believe it’s been 15 years,” said bank representative Kathleen Zenisek. “Being a community bank, we stay in the community and feel it improves the quality of life. It brings people to Eastpointe that might not come otherwise. It brings in business to the restaurants and stores. Supporting the cruise and community events like that are just part and parcel to what we do — we invest in the community and support the community.”
Many local businesses have spent months planning festivities, in an effort to make the most of the cruise and the potential of future business that comes with it.
“A lot of businesses start planning a year in advance,” said Reece-Seger. “They have live music or food. The beer tents draw everybody and the live music draws a lot of people, too. It’s late now, but if they are focused and dedicated, I think a business could still pull something together in time for cruise day.”
Richardson agreed that it’s not too late to plan something for cruise day.
“Anything you can do to bring awareness to your business and anything to make people feel welcome inside your store is a good thing,” she said.
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