Like restaurant and bar owners across Volusia and Flagler counties, chaplain Norm Schneller is ready for Bike Week’s debut Friday. But instead of steaks and beer, he’s stocked up on Bibles.
Schneller has been attending Daytona’s Bike Week for over 20 years. The veteran and ordained minister rode into town from Georgia Wednesday with his buddy Jim Sarratt, and Thursday afternoon they were parked on Main Street offering free Bibles stacked on top of their Harley Davidsons.
“Thirty seconds after we got off our bikes somebody walked up to us and asked us to pray for him,” said Schneller from his post outside of Froggy’s Saloon. “We’re just sharing Jesus here.”
Schneller and Sarratt weren’t the only early birds to the 10-day motorcycle rally. The 75th annual Bike Week begins today, but riders have been shopping and socializing along Main Street all week.
Volusia and Flagler business owners, meanwhile, were either ready to go or putting their final touches on things for the anniversary celebrations, hoping to continue the momentum — and moneymaking — from the bigger crowds that attended the 75th Sturgis motorcycle rally last summer in South Dakota.
Chris Ellickson was cleaning the windows of the C&D Sales storefront on Main Street Thursday when a rider wandered in to browse. Ellickson said business has been slow so far, but the shop did “up the orders” for things like T-shirts.
“I think we are hoping that it will end up the way it was in Sturgis,” Ellickson said. “Everyone is hoping for a repeat.”
Janet Kersey, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the event that runs through March 13 is expected to draw more than a half-million visitors because of the precedent set by Sturgis. In Volusia County, Bike Week has a base economic impact of almost $75 million, according to Mid-Florida Marketing & Research.
In north Volusia County, Dean Pepe said Destination Daytona, which includes Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley Davidson dealership, stocked up on everything Harley Davidson they could get their hands on, including more motorcycles than they’ve had in recent years, and they also doubled the staff size from about 90 to nearly 180 for Bike Week. Pepe is the Rossmeyer family’s general counsel and husband to Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe, who is the business’s licensed dealer and general manager.
“We are pretty much all hands on deck,” Dean Pepe said.
At Flagler Beach’s High Tides at Snack Jacks, manager Miranda Clark said they will be offering a 75th anniversary shirt to customers.
Lucky Rooster Pub and Eatery on Main Street quadrupled their stock for Bike Week this year to accommodate the bigger crowd’s appetite from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day. Jill Abercrombie, a morning staffer, said they increased staff by at least 10 people this year.
Pam DiMartino was hanging T-shirts stamped “75th anniversary” outside of the Bikers Pride souvenir store on Main Street Thursday as bikers mingled in and out. The business increased stock by 50 percent because they ran out of product mid-week at Sturgis. DiMartino said a new feature they are offering customers this year is the opportunity to buy items online, atwww.bikerspride.com, in case product runs out in the store.
Mordekhay Amsalen, manager of Bikers Pride, said they are also paying 40 percent more to rent out their space this year because of the milestone anniversary.
“Thousands of dollars more for rent doesn’t mean we are going to make that,” Amsalen said. “Everybody rides that white horse, but we don’t know how white it will be.”