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A CATF economy

By Staff | Aug 13, 2012

The Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) has wrapped-up its 22nd season and now local business owners discuss what impact the festival has had on the local economy.

Elizabeth King, owner of Blue Moon restaurant, believes CATF continues to be a ‘boon’ for town businesses, though she said she’s observed a slight decline in the number of theater patrons this summer.

“All the same, business was certainly improved,” she said.

King said that on the Blue Moon’s busiest weekend days, approximately 70 percent of patrons were theater-goers.

Jeanne Muir, owner of the Thomas Shepherd Inn, said that the bed and breakfast sees its biggest numbers during CATF season.

“July is our busiest month,” she said. “We can always count on having a very high occupancy in July,” she went on to say.

Muir, who has been running the Inn for 10 years, said that as the CATF staff expands the festival’s schedule to include special events and readings, she sees customers come earlier and stay longer to participate.

Mike Raubertas, owner of Fours Seasons Books, said July is one of his busiest months as well.

“CATF is really good for our business.”

Raubertas said he thinks that the independent book shops offerings meet the interest of the theater-going crowd.

“I think we do well because people who are interested in plays are generally interested in books as well.”

Raubertas also said that more and more he finds that those who may discover Shepherdstown because of CATF, decide to return for other events throughout the year.

The Blue Moon’s Elizabeth King agreed that the town itself has started to become a draw for tourists, and CATF’s popularity assists in that.

“Our town is increasing in popularity in tandem to events,” she said.

Though King said she’s enthusiastic about the theater customers CATF currently reaches, she said she hopes it will continue to diversify its audience to include younger members of the theater-going community.

King said she’s worried that as patrons age-out, the festival’s attendance may shrink as a result.

She suggested that a younger theater audience would also likely help support the town’s night life, local music and bar community.

“There is a nightlife economy in town,” she said.

Though only time will tell how CATF will continue to affect Shepherdstown, Raubertas said he’s watched the festival evolve over the 21 years that Four Seasons Books has been open, and its impact only seems to be growing.

“The last three years have been breakthrough years for them, at least from our perspective,” he said.

Muir said the Inn has seen a reversal in fortunes as a result of the theater festival and described a conversation she had with the Inn’s previous owners.

“Before CATF happened, July was their slowest month. Now, its our busiest month.”