EAA'ers Do Best To Support Local Economy
By ANN Associate Editor Annette Kurman
It's like Christmas in July, in terms of retail sales, for many
outlet stores this week in Oshkosh.
As EAA-ers make plans for their annual trek to AirVenture, often
a year in advance, many of them (often female) also make those
plans with visions of sales and discounts in their heads.
Yes, we're talking about the thousands of AirVenture-ites who
attend the "World's Greatest Aviation Celebration," who also plan a
trip to Oshkosh's Prime Outlet Mall as a "must attend" event during
Fare that covers the bus rides from AirVenture to the mall and
back for an entire day is but $3 and the buses run from 9 am to 9
pm every 15 minutes. But, as someone in a ginormous advertising
agency once said: The experience: priceless. (At least until the
credit card bills come in next month.)
For many of the outlet stores, it is indeed like Christmas in
July, said Molly, Pendleton Store manager, whose sales are up twice
over last year's. Even men's sales in the store are up, she said.
(Men - in a clothing store - shopping for themselves? Tell me it
Pendleton's biggest sellers this week are their blankets, Molly
said. The store started its sale the Thursday before AirVenture
began, capturing part of the 5,000 volunteers, campers, and
exhibitors who arrived early to set up and prepare for the big
"By Monday (AirVenture's first official day), we had people come
in from 15 different states," she said.
Several of the stores have world maps posted so that customers
can add a colored pushpin to the city or country from which they
came, like those at Pendleton and Land's End.
Land's End associate manager Jenny claimed a customer who hails
from Antarctica. (A government contractor looking for winterized
Eddie Bauer's store manager, Jenny, agreed with Molly that her
store sees a significant increase in business with AirVenture.
(Note to ANN readers: Don't tell my husband. Eddie Bauer is where I
put my credit card to extensive use.)
"We get a lot of local and international traffic, and we get to
see so many people," she said.
The most popular items at Eddie Bauer are camping gear, back
packs, totes, and lawn chairs.
"It's nice to have EAA (AirVenture). It brings a boost the area
(economy) even the week before it opens," she said.
Carrie is the district manager from the Totes/Sunglass World,
and this is her first experience "working" AirVenture at the outlet
mall. (Her district office is elsewhere in Wisconsin.)
Business has been very good, she said. "The customers are
friendly, upbeat, and excited to be coming to the air show, and it
gives us a chance to talk to people from all over the world."
And yes, for Totes/Sunglass World, it has been "Christmas in
July," with sunglasses, large duffels, suitcases, and backpacks
flying out the door, particularly towards the end of the week when
attendees realize they have more "stuff" to bring home than they
brought with them.
From The Shopper's Perspective
Paula Opalka, the wife of one of EAA's featured authors, James
W. Opalka ("Naked Aviator" and "Dither Me Dead"), with cousin in
tow, organizes a bus trip of Oshkoshers from Butler, PA. Her daily,
yes daily, schedule includes shopping in the morning and then
returning back to EAA grounds.
"I come everyday to shop," she admitted proudly. "It's fun to
meet people on the bus over (to the mall)" She also admits to
spending at least $500 with the outlet retailers (May her husband
sell LOTS of books).
On the other hand, there's Jan from Colfax, IA. A five-year
veteran of AirVenture, Saturday was the first time she went to the
outlet mall since arriving Monday.
"It's some place we (wives) can go," she said. "Our husbands are
in love with airplanes and this week, we come in second."
"As far as I'm concerned," Jan added, "if I've seen one airplane
engine, I've seen them all." I left her to continue shopping for
Gaye Pardy and her companion were resting themselves on one of
the outside benches. A travel agent in from New Zealand, Gaye
organizes aviation enthusiasts from that country for their annual
trip to Oshkosh. As mother hen to her 27 charges, she arranges for
university housing, and trips to see such un-New Zealand-like
retailers as Wal-Mart, Target, and Walgreen's.
They also eat at Kodiak Jack's attend the Mayor's breakfast in
The Oshkosh leg of the trip (They are also traveling to other
parts of the US as part of their international excursion) is $4,000
New Zealand dollars, or about $3,062 US and comes complete with a
12-hour flight from New Zealand to San Francisco, a 4 ½
flight to Chicago, a 50-minute flight to Appleton, concluding with
a 35-minute ride to the university (where all-you-can eat
breakfasts and dinners go for $8 each).
As I was speaking with Gaye on Saturday at 1:15 pm central time,
it was Sunday, 6:15 am. How time flies!
And The Guy Who Gets Them There
Curtis Kryszak, 75, is one of the
bus drivers who for the Koullesson Bus Company, whose buses make
trips to the outlet, the West Side, and elsewhere. Retired for 13
years, he drives school buses for Koullesson during the school
A member of the Navy who was an air crewman on patrol bombers
(PBYs) in 1950 - 1954, Kryszak has seen AirVenture for some 20
years. He worked the 9 am - 3 pm shift Monday through Saturday this
week and enjoys driving the couple miles from AirVenture's bus
terminal to the outlet mall and back again and again.
The most important thing for him is to talk to people. Usually
it's the wives of husbands "who have other things to do" who are
riding his bus. Many of the passengers he's chatted with have been
from the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Germany,
and the Czech Republic.
One gentleman, he recalled, left his cell phone on the bus. We
had it for him when he stepped back on the bus for his return trip
looking for it. "I thought he was going to kiss me!"