Sandy victims head to Berkshires for supplies, a place to stay
PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire County's tourism industry usually experiences a lull at this time of the year. Most of the leaves have already fallen, and the snow hasn't arrived yet.
But Hurricane Sandy appears to have changed that trend this week.
Those involved in the local tourism industry say they have seen an influx of visitors from the metropolitan New York City area who have come to the Berkshires to escape the devastation from Monday's superstorm.
"We have numerous inns and lodging establishments that are closer to being filled up than usual," said Betsy Andrus, the director of the Southern Berk shire Chamber of Com merce in Great Barrington.
"People who live here say second homeowners are coming up when they're not scheduled to come up, and that they have friends who are staying with them," she said.
People who live in areas devastated by the hurricane are also coming to the Berkshires to purchase supplies.
At Lee Hardware, owner Joseph Scapin Jr. said two women drove up from northern New Jersey in a van, purchased over $5,000 worth of generators, extension cords, batteries and gas cans, then drove back home.
"They had some friends in Otis who said give Lee Hardware a try," Scapin said. "They took as much as they could in a big van. They were so happy that we had them. They said they had been searching all over."
In Lenox, Chamber of Commerce Director Ralph Petillo said lodging establishments are offering discounted room rates to people who live in hurricane devastated areas. Billy Soto, who owns the Village Inn, is offering the three remaining rooms that he has available for this weekend for free to anyone who can verify that they live in an area that was hit by the storm.
Soto is also offering the same deal at the motor lodge he owns in Bennington, Vt.
"Anyone who can prove that they're from New York City south of 39th Street, from Long Island where they got hit the most, from southern New Jersey where they got hit the most, or from Breezy Point," he said.
"These are people who are our neighbors," said Soto, who is originally from the New York City area. "These are people we know who fell through the cracks ... We should stick our hands out and say you can stay with us."
The Seven Hills Inn provided a free room to a couple from Westport, Conn. who are regular visitors, and a discounted room rate to some New Jersey residents.
"These were guests who had summered with us, an older couple," said inn owner Robin Gerson Wong, referring to the Connecticut couple. "How can I charge them, you know? Just come."
Citing an email sent by the owner of a lodging establishment, Lauri Klefos, the president and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, said that 80 percent of the visitors at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Lenox are people who been displaced by the hurricane that are receiving discounts. Utility crews fixing power lines are also staying at lodging establishments, she said.
The influx of visitors apparently hasn't made its way as far as North County. Carl Faulkner, the general manager of the Wlliams Inn, said most of the visitors from metropolitan New York who have booked rooms came for Homecoming Weekend at Williams College, not because of the storm.
"The first bus from New York City just arrived in Williamstown today," he said.
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