FOX47 NEWS - Tough Times for the Dells

Jeff Angileri
Aug 11, 2008, 10:41 PM

With a sluggish economy and an empty lake, life is tough for small business owners in and around the Wisconsin Dells.

There's a lot more to the area than a huge empty lake. But, you wouldn't know it by the number of tourists this season.

Everybody thought the whole town was flooded, said Kelly Jo Gehrke, General Manager of Wizard Quest. It really brought business down. Memorial Day was nothing. Fourth of July wasn't much better.

For some places, business is down 20 to 35 percent this year. Only now, in mid-August, are some businesses starting to meet their income goals.

Meanwhile, cut backs--everything from smaller staffs to resource conservation--are key to survival

The more energy it takes for the item, we wait longer to turn it on, said Gehrke. We try to cut back on utilities that way.

In fact, some places don't even turn on their electric signs. Vacancy after vacancy after vacancy, motels are relying on return customers and word of mouth to stay afloat.

It's definitely not easy because we don't have the money that other places have, said Margeret Gewont, owner of Fitzgerald's Motel. We depend mostly on honesty and friendship.

Some businesses are generations old. They've weathered tough economies before. Even when money's tight, they say, people still need a vacation.

Said Gewont, People need to get away, enjoy life, bring friends, and children. People support people.

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