Business booming in Cascade Locks with I-84 reopened - KPTV - FOX 12

Business booming in Cascade Locks with I-84 reopened

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Sunday was the first full day Interstate 84 was back open in both directions after being closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire, a welcome change for many businesses operating in the Columbia River Gorge.

Hotels and restaurants along the once-closed stretch of highway have felt the loss in business, but overnight, travel picked up and tourists were back for a look at the Gorge.

Business owners said it feels like the start of summer again and that tourism in Cascade Locks was taking off since I-84 reopened. 

“Our hope is that after a month that people don’t forget,” Thunder Island Brewing general manager Jeremy Bechtel said.

Business was booming at the restaurant, and Bechtel said customers have been calling eager to come back.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook with, ‘What are your hours?’ ‘Can we come out?’ ‘Can we come across the bridge if we can’t use 84?’” he said. “Now that 84 is open, it’s just been crazy.”

Thunder Island Brewing was just one of the restaurants that helped feed tired firefighters while it was under an evacuation notice. Now, people are stepping up to help them.

Bechtel said the majority of their business this weekend has come from people out of town and noted that they opened an hour early Sunday because of a line of people waiting at the door.

“It was almost immediate once people found out that the freeway, 84 eastbound, was back open,” he said. “And people started filtering in, so we had a really busy evening yesterday and then again today.”

Anna Browne and her husband came from Portland Sunday to support the town. She said they were planning to do their grocery shopping in Cascade Locks before heading home.

“It was just too much to ask for people to come up on the Washington side and come over,” she said. “So we really wanted to come up and help them out, more than just stopping for Cokes and a snack after we come out from the trail.”

Hotels in town are filling up fast. Scot Sullenger, the owner of Cascade Motel, told FOX 12 he hopes his rooms will fill up before the cold weather hits. 

“I think it’s just critical at this time to get the people to come out and check the area out and help us try to generate some revenue so it can carry us through the wintertime,” he said.

Business owners said not only are they trying to recover from the loss of income during the fire, but their employees are, too.

“Our biggest concern right now is trying to help all of our employees of Cascade Locks businesses get back on their feet,” Bechtel said.

The biggest message the shop, restaurants and hotels in Cascade Locks want people to know is a simple one - they’re open for business.

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