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Boston Marathon’s impact on small businesses

With the Boston Marathon approaching on Monday, various small businesses provide insight into the impact that the marathon, runners and tourists have had on their establishments in recent years.

Boston Marathon runners make their way past the finish line in Copley Square in April 2023. Small businesses along the route explained the positive and negative impacts that the marathon can have on operations. ANDREW BURKE-STEVENSON/DFP PHOTOGRAPHER

The Boston Marathon is the “most widely viewed sporting event” in New England as it draws in crowds close to 500,000 each year, according to the Boston Athletic Association.

“The Boston Marathon drives significant economic impact for Greater Boston, infusing our economy with an estimated $200 million,” Casey Baines, senior director of communications at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an email.

During last year’s marathon, London Boyd, the manager of Lure Boutique, a women’s clothing store located on Newbury Street, did not see much activity around the store. 

“It wasn’t anything crazy,” Boyd said. “It’s a chill day to hang out and talk to people.” 

However, arriving to work was a challenge for her due to traffic and blocked-off roads around Newbury Street. 

“We open at 11 [a.m.] but I got here around noon,” Boyd said. “I walked all around and the cops let me go through … because I gotta open the store.” 

Jack McGill, the general manager of Dirty Water Dough Company, also mentioned he needs to arrive at the restaurant earlier because of the marathon’s security checkpoints.

However, McGill said the security checkpoints “can be difficult during the day” for the restaurant’s delivery orders. He said the deliveries have to “cut through the alleys, but even then they’ll be stopped at checkpoints.”

Despite the race’s security checkpoints, McGill said the weekend before the marathon “has the biggest influx of people.”

“It’s really about the same, if not more foot traffic than we get during the summer when all the tourists are coming to Boston on Newbury Street,” McGuill said. “It’s a good start to the summer season for us.” 

On the day of the marathon, McGill said the restaurant still sees business, especially from runners. 

“They’ll come in after the race just because we’re so close. We’re only a couple blocks away,” he said.

Despite the increase in people around Newbury Street, Lure Boutique did not end up selling anything on the day of the marathon, Boyd said.

However, Baines explained that businesses are preparing for an increase in sales.

“As the marathon’s athletes try to beat their personal records, many businesses and workers will be setting their sights on record breaking sales during this time,”  Baines wrote.

Rick Walker’s, a small business that sells western apparel on Newbury Street, is closing on Marathon Monday as a large amount of the area is being shut down. 

“It is very difficult for staff to access parking … there is a security checkpoint that we are inside of due to our proximity to Hereford St.,” the store wrote in an email.

In another email, Rick Walker, the owner of Rick Walker’s, wrote the marathon still provides the store with an economic boost, but they still lose a day of business due to being closed. 

“Not a big fan of the race, but it’s been going on for so long it’s just part of doing business,” Walker wrote. “There are many things that the city does in everyday business that [are] far more disruptive.” 

Peter Win, the co-owner and manager of Brookline Booksmith, noticed more people visiting from out of town the weekend before the marathon and can tell they are in Boston for the event. 

“A lot of them wear their marathon jackets … windbreakers or something if they’ve run before,” Win said. “There is sort of an extra buzz of energy or activity just with so many people in town.” 

However, Win believes he will not see a significant difference in commerce during the time of the marathon, as the store tends “to be busy anyways.” 

As a Massachusetts native, Win recognizes the marathon as a big part of the city’s culture. 

“I can’t imagine it not happening,” Win said. “It’s such a big event for not just Boston or Massachusetts or New England, but the whole world pays attention.”

Alex Schaffner, the community engagement coordinator for Brookline Booksmith, expressed a challenge scheduling employees, since the store is on the marathon route. 

“Sometimes we’ll have employees live on the other side of Beacon Street and if you live in JP or anywhere on that side of the road, we just can’t schedule you for that day because you can’t get here,” Schaffner said. 

Schaffner said on the day of the marathon the store often has a lot of browsers who are coming in as a break from watching the marathon but not as many are purchasing anything. As a result, Brookline Booksmith closes a few hours early.

“As the marathon winds down, we tend to see a drastic drop off of people in the store just on that particular day, so we’re closing at six on Marathon Mondays,” Schaffner said. 

Despite it being a slow sales day, Schaffner said she looks forward to the marathon due to the positive energy it brings.

“If you look down the street there’s hundreds of people yelling and clapping all day long … so I always look forward to it,” Schaffner said. “It’s just nice to have a place on the sidelines to watch a really big, joyful event that is critical to the Boston identity happen right outside our door.”

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