Ashland businesses react to OSF cancellation

ASHLAND, Ore. – Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Friday it’s canceling it’s fall season.

Now Ashland businesses, hoping for a boost in tourism dollars, are pivoting to a new future of uncertainty.

“Shakespeare closing, it’s going to be an interesting summer,” said Deena Branson, owner of Branson’s Chocolates in Ashland. OSF is a big part of her business.  “Not only are they one of my wholesale customers, but a lot of my wholesale customers, which are downtown are affected,” said Branson.

Wholesale makes up 3/4 of Branson’s business.  One of her wholesalers is Ashland Springs Hotel, which relies on tourism. OSF’s canceled 2020 season is a major blow.

“It’s a big impact. We’ve partnered with OSF and have been a big partner for a number of years,” said Scott Brandstetter, Assistant General Manager of Ashland Springs Hotel.

Many groups stay at Ashland Springs while attending plays around town.

“With them not being opened this season that will definitely hurt our group sales,” said Brandstetter.

Forced to adapt, the businesses are working furiously right now.

“It’s kinda gotten our creative thinking caps back on again,” said Brandstetter.

One way the Ashland Chamber is doing that, is by planning micro-events. Though the iconic OSF stages will be dark, Katharine Cato of the Ashland Chamber says the town will focus it’s tourism on the outdoors and wine country areas that may work better for people in this age of distancing.

“Ashland is an amazing mecca of outdoor trails and a jumping off point base camp for exploring Southern Oregon,” said Cato.

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce says it hopes all Ashland restaurants and retailers will be open by mid-June. By the end of June it hopes to unveil more information about it’s micro-event summer series. Until then these small businesses are relying on local support.

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