Businesses adjust to Columbus Day fade-out

Marchers make their way down Fifth Avenue during the 67th annual Columbus Day Parade on October 10, 2011 in New York City. Columbus Day used to be a day off, but with fewer workers and students getting a three-day weekend, businesses have to adjust.

It’s likely you’re working today and perhaps didn’t even recall that it’s Columbus Day. Nearly half of states don’t recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Getting Columbus Day as a paid holiday is a fading privilege that’s been eroding for a number of reasons. The holiday has long faced protests from Native American groups. Governments have sliced it out of paid holiday lists, citing straining budgets. And some workers prefer to have more time off around winter holidays, rather than a fall Monday.

Even some states that do recognize the holiday aren’t giving workers today off. In Tennessee this year, Columbus Day will be marked on the Friday after Thanksgiving. That means weekend guests at Blue Mountain Mist, a Smoky Mountains bed-and-breakfast, largely checked out yesterday.

Manager Jason Ball would rather have more guests staying through today, as the extra night of revenue makes a big difference. “When you get the longer stays, like the three nights, that’s pretty huge,” he explains. The inn can’t count on Columbus Day to provide the kind of business Labor Day and Memorial Day offer.

Retailers depend on Columbus Day too. The Tennessee chain Electronic Express is heavily promoting its Columbus Day sale. Leon Harris expects good business today for the branch he manages outside Nashville, but nothing like on a paid holiday. “When people are off work, then you’re gonna have more foot traffic, more people walking around,” he says. “Columbus Day, it’s a little different.”

Mark Garrison: Getting Columbus Day off is a fading privilege, eroded by tight budgets and controversy with Native Americans. Nearly half of states don’t recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Tennessee does, technically, but the day off is the Friday after Thanksgiving. So weekend guests at Blue Mountain Mist, a Smoky Mountains B&B, largely checked out yesterday. Manager Jason Ball wishes more could stay through today.

Jason Ball: When you get the longer stays, like the three nights, that’s pretty huge in any kind of accommodation.

Retailers count on Columbus Day too. Leon Harris manages an Electronic Express outside Nashville, which is heavily promoting its Columbus Day sale. He expects good business today, but nothing like on a paid holiday.

Leon Harris: I mean, when people are off work, then you’re gonna have more foot traffic, more people walking around. Columbus Day, it’s a little different.

A difference more businesses have to deal with.

In New York, I'm Mark Garrison for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter and substitute host for Marketplace, based in New York.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...