Amgen exposure has downtown Modesto businesses reaping race's rewards

May 20, 2010 

A little rain fell right before the Amgen Tour of California rolled into Modesto, but it didn't do anything to dampen business.

Fans lined Modesto streets 10-people deep near the finish line Wednesday afternoon, and a steady crowd streamed into downtown throughout the day. Thousands came to watch the race, browse the Lifestyle Festival and enjoy the restaurants.

"We're five times busier than on an average Wednesday," said Firkin & Fox general manager Tony Arnebeck, after the race ended. "We've been busy since 10:30 a.m."

Down the block on 10th Street, Barkin' Dog Grill owner Hanibal Yadegar said his business was up about 30 percent from last year.

"We had thick traffic," he said. "People were in the mood, they were eating and drinking."

While downtown restaurants and bars reaped some of the largest crowds from Wednesday's tour stop, other businesses also saw their foot traffic increase.

On J Street, a block from the tour route, new business owner Susie Fagundes was thrilled with her Amgen exposure.

"We had a very good turnout," said Fagundes, who opened the gift boutique Intrinsic Elements a month ago. "Besides just people coming to see the race, people who work downtown were roaming around because they couldn't leave. It was a great day."

Still, not all downtown shops and offices benefitted from the race, which blocked downtown streets and snarled traffic for much of the day. Slater's Home Furnishings closed for the whole day to avoid the race congestion and resulting slower business.

On 16th Street, where the race whizzed by before pulling into the home stretch on I Street, Mocha Magic owner Candace Wiegand said her business was up from last year, thanks largely to the better weather.

But even without a boost in sales, she said the race is a good thing for Modesto and the community.

"I think it's just a terrific thing," she said. "After such a tough winter and a lot of bad news, it's nice to have something positive. It lifts everyone's spirits."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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