COLUMBIA, S.C. — (WTLX) -- Columbia is no stranger to big events from Gamecock football games to the Eclipse and much more. Business owners in the Vista said those busy weekends helped them prepare for March Madness this weekend.
"Definitely can feel the presence of other people all the fans," Pearlz Oyster Bar Operating Partner Jesse Baumgarner said.
The Vista is always a popular spot on Saturdays, but with March Madness in town businesses like Motor Supply Company Bistro welcome the extra guest.
So far, their Executive Chef Wesley Fulmer said he’s seen 15 to 20 percent more customers.
"Foot traffic and being in the Vista you always want more foot traffic as parking is at a premium, but it’s always fun to see all the fan bases and listen to their story and tell your story," Fulmer said.
He even created a special dish for the visiting fans.
"I got in some soft-shell crabs on Thursday, one of the first of the seasons from Beaufort," Fulmer said.
The crabs were a slam dunk and sold out fast.
"It was dish we were really proud of and there were all South Carolina ingredients on the dish and everything," Fulmer said. "We definitely promoted that the state has such great agriculture that it's really easy to make it a super star on the plate.”
Down the street at Pearlz the Baumgarner said he projected this week to be their highest sales ever, but in order to do that they made sure they were ready for the large crowds.
“Crossing all the T's and doting all the I's you know," Baumgarner said. "We have 25,000 people coming and so just making sure I have backups of everything and well-staffed just getting ready to show them what we are all about.”
All in all the tournament is projected to bring an economic impact of anywhere from $4 to $9 million over this weekend.