SEBRING - From U.S. 27 to the downtown business district, it's a little easier to drive around town in the absence of the area's winter residents, but business owners are trying to cope with the summertime loss of foot traffic in their stores and restaurants.
Without the winter residents most businesses see a significant drop in customers during the summer including at long-time Sebring business Triangle Hardware, 3129 U.S. 27 S., Sebring.
Business is "definitely seasonal around here," said Triangle Manager Chris Selph. "It comes and goes during the summer."
Thus far this has been a typically slow summer, he said.
The store, which incorporated in 1960, maintains the same hours and days of business year round.
How do you survive the slow summer?
"You've got to make your money during the winter to make it through the summer, but that has been going on for years," he said.
Hilda Hernandez is experiencing her first summer as a business owner in Highlands County.
She purchased the Surf n Turf Market, at 6408 U.S. 27, S., Sebring, in January.
The seafood and meat market opened four years ago.
Hernandez believes the previous owner's biggest problem was not maintaining consistent hours of business.
"I hear a lot of complaints from the local customers about them going to stores that are supposed to be open and then they see a sign that says they're closed," she said. Then the customers don't want to go back.
Hernandez decided to maintain her same hours of business during the summer.
Business was good through Easter and then starting slowing down even more during the last week of May, she noted.
She noticed fewer workers at a restaurant and a bakery she frequents, Hernandez said. "Even when you walk into the grocery store now you notice there are less people and of course you are going to notice that because a lot of the snowbirds that leave."
But, Hernandez is optimistic that business will improve.
"It is my first year here and I am hoping that it will pick up and the local people will know more about the place," she said. "Hopefully the economy turns around a little bit and this city will pick up a little bit, too."
It's Jack Smile's second summer with his downtown Sebring business, The 3 Bears Antique Shoppe and The Mermaid's Castle, which sells greeting cards, crystals, jewelry, incense and wizards and dragons collectables.
"Last summer seemed a little busier than this summer," he said. "The summer has been unusually quiet.
"It's just reflective of the economy with everybody still a little quiet with their budget, eating out less during the week, shopping a little more selectively."
Smile has cut back his store hours and days of business to 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed. - Sat.
The downtown events keeps the business going, he said. The monthly garage sale and Community Redevelopment Agency events bring a lot of people downtown.
David Mulligan, owner of New Beginnings Salon, 6410 U.S. 27, S., Sebring, said he takes a little more time off during the slow summer period.
"The summers are slow, but it's not 'that' slow," he said.
How do you make it through the summer?
"Eight months of winter keeps you going, but at the moment it's not really that bad, but it could be better," Mulligan replied.