Is it just us, or does it suddenly seem a whole lot busier on the South Fork? After three difficult off-seasons for the local economy, the spring rush appears to have strength not seen for some time.
The signs of life are anecdotal, sure, but they include a slight uptick in home-repair projects, such as shingling, which is noticeable as we go about our daily rounds. We remember well that during the winter doldrums of the past few years passenger vehicles were almost alone on the roads. No more. Traffic, especially the morning and evening trade parade of vans and work trucks, is heavier outside our Main Street windows. New restaurants are opening and old ones are changing hands or being revamped with new menus, new chefs, new design.
Real estate news is mixed. In the first quarter of 2011 on the East End, the number of sales was down as was the median price compared with the same quarter in 2010. However, sales of vacant land were up slightly, an indicator that builders may be feeling hopeful. And the median figure’s decline might indicate that activity has shifted away from the ultra-high-end market, which had been less affected by the recession. For some sense of how bad things had gotten and how far we have come, consider that only 55 properties changed hands in the first quarter of 2009; more than twice that number — 115 — were sold this year.
There is no denying that the last few years have been tough. Businesses have struggled through the long, cold months to keep going. Some have folded. There are still vacant storefronts. And plenty of the self-employed are still waiting for the phone to start ringing again. Yet there is a sense that the tide has changed, that this season will be a little better than the last, that the worst has passed. Then, too, we are not alone in hoping so.