Town readies for CATF
By Kelly Cambrel
As the Contemporary American Theater Festival’s 21st season approaches, the local business community feels its impact.
According to Jeanne Muir, director of the Thomas Shepherd Inn, the CATF season is the busiest time of year for the small bed and breakfast.
Muir said that the inn will host around 100 guests during the month of July, a big number for the six-room hotel.
She said that many guests have booked rooms for the CATF as much as a year in advance, and she expects to see many familiar faces this year.
At least 75 percent of those staying at the inn are repeat customers, said Muir.
“It’s not just busy but reliable business,” she said.
Cheryl Keyrouze, executive director of the Shepherdstown Visitors Center, echoed Muir’s comments.
According to Keyrouze, the visitors center, which keeps track of the number of people who stop in seven days a week, sees a boost in visits during CATF season.
“In the month of July those numbers are the largest for the year,” she said.
Keyrouze said the visitors center helps promote the festival by providing booklets and play info for visitors and those who visit their website.
She said the center attracts tourists who’ve come for the CATF but are interested in learning more about the town’s history, art and culture.
Michael Raubertas, owner of Four Seasons Books, said he noticed a marked difference between his sales in July and the other summer months.
In 2010, sales for the independent bookstore were 30 percent higher in July than in June.
According to Raubertas, the bookstore, which opened in one month after the first CATF season in August of 1991, often carries books or plays each summer written by CATF playwrights.
Raubertas noted not only a “noticeable difference” in sales from month to month but also a measurable increase in the festival’s scope over the years.
“It seems like each year it gets a little bigger,” he said.
Laird Marshall, manager at the Yellow Brick Bank restaurant, also described the evolution of the CATF over the years. Having worked at Yellow Brick Bank for the past 20 years, Marshall said he’s “gotten to watch it bloom and grow.”
Marshall described many of the customers he sees as “old friends” who return year after year to eat, shop and see CATF plays every summer.
Marshall said that on a busy night the restaurant will seat over 150 guests and thinks business is better in July for the town as a whole.
“It brings a tremendous amount of people to town … I think all the businesses in town benefit from the theater festival.”