Local economy benefits from Macker Mania

NORWICH – The 14th Annual Gus Macker Basketball Tournament is expected to draw 10,000 people to Norwich this weekend, many of them from outside of the area, and area merchants are hoping the attraction will help stimulate the local economy.

“Hopefully, we’ll draw some of them into the store, and hopefully, the local community and other business will see out of town customers and their regulars come in. We want to capture some out-of-the-area spending dollars for sure,” said Dan Sepelo, owner of Adventure Bikes and Boards. The business located at 12 S. Broad St., opened it doors about two months ago, and Sepelo said he’s excited about the store’s first Gus Macker.

A veteran merchant of the tournament, Pizza Hut’s General Manager Derek Jones, said the company had reaped the benefits of the event since it first came to Norwich.

“In past years, it has been very constant. People tend to come up for the lunch buffet, and a lot of the time, if the going is good, we’ll extend regular hours. People just really love it,” he said.

Both Jones and Sepelo, along with several other business operators, have opted to coordinate with Macker organizers and have joined the tournament’s Macker Wrist Band Savings offer. Merchants who join the program promise to offer special discounts, sales or other enticements during the competition to help attract patrons to the area. However, many non-participants are still offering weekend deals of their own.

“It is one of the biggest weekends for us, that’s for sure. It’s what we do day in and day out, times a lot,” said Garf’s Deli owner Jon Stewart.

Aim Fitness, located along Rt. 12 at the North Plaza in Norwich, is also participating in the Macker mania by offering day visits to the gym at half price and a free smoothie booster.

“I think it’s a great idea for businesses to promote themselves in the Gus Macker environment. Even though we aren’t exactly in the heart of downtown, we’re expecting some of the crowd of it to reach us even up here,” said Aim’s Director of Operations Eric Montalvo.

This is also the company’s first Macker experience.

“We’ll see how it works, businesses are willing to give a little to get a little,” he said.

On Saturday morning, the majority of the Macker activity and business will kick off at around 8 a.m. Opening ceremonies for the event will begin at that time followed by the first day’s games at 8:30.

Even before the first shot is taken, out-of-town ballers began to fill the city Friday evening and Saturday morning. If tradition holds true, they will bring their shopping dollars with them.

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