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Space shuttle era ends, leaving big void for area firms

Space shuttle missions were a boon to businesses around Cape Canaveral, Fla. With the space shuttle era over, they're banking on cruise ships and other tourist draws.

By Chad BrooksBusinessNewsDaily Contributor / July 21, 2011

Crowds gather at Space View Park as they wait for the launch of space shuttle Atlantis Friday, July 8, 2011, in Titusville, Fla. With the shuttle era over, small area businesses are hoping other attractions will keep the crowds coming.

David J. Phillip/AP/File

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Rusty's has been a Cape Canaveral fixture for 20 years, and Rusty Fisher's family has operated area restaurants for nearly six decades, living through the space program's temporary suspensions following the losses of the Challenger and Columbia shuttles in 1986 and 2003 respectively.

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"We thought that was going to kill us, but it didn't," Fisher said.

"We are going to bounce back from this, too," he said, referring to the end of the Space Shuttle program.

While it's disappointing to know his future crowds might not match the number that visited his restaurant for the final launch this month, Fisher said there are other events during the year that will draw plenty of customers to Rusty's doors.

"We had a record week, but we did just as well for our July Fourth party," Fisher said. "The port is becoming the place to be."

David Spain, who's owned the Comfort Inn and Suites in Cocoa Beach since the days of the 1970s Apollo missions, is similarly optimistic and said the end of the space shuttle program doesn't mean certain doom for area businesses that rely on tourism to support their bottom line.

"We have been here before," Spain told BusinessNewsDaily, referring to the lull in activity between the Apollo and shuttle missions. "This time, though, we are better prepared than we were."

In the years since the shuttle program began, the entire area around Cape Canaveral has expanded, and proved to businesses that not all their profits depend on the space program.