Fancy chocolates might not be the first thing that one associates with a motorcycle rally, but Blaine Boring Chocolates relishes Johnstown’s Thunder in the Valley.
“We look forward to it every year,” Manager Janet Hammett said from the 123 Market St. store.
“It’s a way to interest more people in our store. Hopefully, they will come back.”
Local residents who don’t frequent downtown come to Thunder and rediscover the downtown business, Hammett said.
“They find out we have more than candy in the store,” she said.
“We have fruit and cards and ice cream, too.”
Reconnecting with locals is only one benefit that Thunder in the Valley provides for area businesses.
The temporary surge in population brings a much-appreciated injection of cash to the region, businesses confirm.
“Thunder in the Valley is tremendous to me,” Scott’s by Dam co-owner Scott McLachlan said. “It helps me expand my business.”
Scott’s will bring in a 30-by-30-foot tent behind the restaurant, where a disc jockey will alternate with a local musician to entertain diners.
The annual tradition is a highlight of the year for McLachlan and his wife, Cindy, along with their staff.
“We get to see people once a year when they return to get my tacos and renew friendships,” McLachlan said. “I get to see them and have a blast with them.”
The expanded dining area creates some welcome challenges for his small restaurant.
“It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it,” McLachlan said.
Thunder’s boost is not limited to downtown businesses. Holiday Inn Express at 1440 Scalp Ave. in Richland will be at full capacity Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, General Manager Jennifer Hewitt said.
“Everybody is excited when the time rolls around,” Hewitt said. “We have returning guests we look forward to seeing every year.”
Hotels throughout the area count on Thunder’s drawing power.
“I’m an extreme supporter of Thunder in the Valley,” she said.
Shenanagans Sports Pub attracts its share of the Thunder crowd to its 800 Scalp Ave. location, co-owner Richard McQuaide said.
“Thunder in the Valley is a boost to all our businesses,” McQuaide said.
“They definitely patronize us – especially our outdoor deck on the front of the restaurant.”
McQuaide and his partner, Lorrie Sanden, also operate Asiago’s Tuscan Italian restaurant, Mirage Banquet and Catering and Mama Mia’s Pizzeria in the Scalp Avenue complex adjacent to Bel Air Plaza.
“We open up early and get a lot of bikes up there,” he said.
“I think it’s a great event and I encourage more things like it.”
McQuaide had hoped to have Asiago’s open in time for Thunder at the former City View Bar and Grill location atop the Johnstown Inclined Plane. That won’t happen, he said.
Creditors have placed numerous liens on the restaurant liquor license and several pieces of equipment.
The liens require court approval so the creditors get some repayment of City View’s outstanding debts.
David Horten and Galen Blough are still working on plans for Cal and Dot’s Rock and Country Grill at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, but it won’t be up and running for Thunder, either, Horten said.
Again, a liquor license approval is the stumbling block. But unlike the Inclined Plane, the airport’s license has no encumbrances.
The application process and approval is just taking longer than expected, Horten said.
Horten said he welcomes Thunder in the Valley, but sees little additional revenue at his current restaurant, Nykos on Scalp Avenue.
“I don’t think it has a major, major impact on our business,” Horten said.
“We may see some trickle effect.
“It’s set up for downtown and Richland fire hall. Those guys are the ones who get all the main things.”
Horten sees an overall positive impact.
“I like to see the community do well,” he said. “It’s for this area.”
Owners of the new Press restaurant in Central Park Plaza, 110 Franklin St., aren’t sure what to expect when they open just days before Thunder’s invasion of visitors. Since they won’t have a liquor license in place, owners Jeremy and Jen Shearer said the biker crowd may chose other options.
Or they may be swamped.
Either way, Jeremy Shearer said Thunder should be a good way to introduce their new eatery to the community.
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