Downtown: Many merchants performed better during earlier Market Days
Main Street Redesign
Visitors browse vendors on Main Street on the first afternoon of Market Days, Thursday, June 25, 2015.
For Gretchen Peters at Puppy Love Hot Dogs, Market Days is Christmas.
Intown Concord’s annual street festival is her biggest weekend of the year, and this summer, the holiday was extra festive.
“I had one of my busiest Market Days events ever, those three days in June,” Peters said.
She credited the cooler weather in June, as opposed to the traditional July weekend, and the timing at the start of summer vacation.
“We had a lot of locals that came for Market Days that normally are on vacation or too busy,” she said.
Construction on the Main Street project forced Intown Concord to schedule Market Days in June rather than mid-July this year – about three or four weeks earlier than usual. Some vendors worried about the earlier date, because the July event always allows them to begin clearing out summer merchandise and plug back-to-school sales.
But after this year’s festival, many merchants said the June festival was busier and better than ever.
“I think a lot of people are hoping it becomes a permanent change,” said Tressa Kosowicz, co-owner of Little River Oriental Rugs.
The rug store doesn’t have the same kind of Market Days sales as other vendors during the festival. But Kosowicz saw more visitors on Main Street – and more vendors. She mentioned stands – like Simply Cannoli – that did not come to Concord in the past due to a busy festival schedule in July.
“It seemed like more people were out, before the usual July vacation times,” Kosowicz said. “The crowds were better.”
At Bead It!, co-owner Chris Norlund said business was up 60 or 70 percent during this year’s festival.
“I had a lot of parents say this was a great way to kick off summer,” Norlund said. “The kids are out of school. . . . It got a lot of positive feedback from families.”
She estimated about 90 percent of the other merchants she had spoken with preferred the earlier date.
“It was the best Market Days we’ve had in 11 Market Days,” Norlund said.
At Caring Gifts, co-owner Sue Phillips said the shop also did better numbers than usual for Market Days.
“I wasn’t sure we were going to like it in June because we usually put things on sale,” Phillips said.
But everything aligned just right.
“It wasn’t hot,” Phillips said. “People had just gotten out of school so people weren’t away. That made it work.”
The Concord Arts Market set up in a new location on Pleasant Street, rather than at the north end of the festival near Centre Street. Organizer Katy Brown Solsky said her vendors liked their spot – and the weather – better this year.
“The weather was a little bit cooler in June than it was in July,” she said. “Usually we’re beating it to the lemonade stand over and over during the day.”
At the office for Intown Concord, which hosts the annual street fair, the feedback has been similarly positive.
Michelle Talwani, the vice president of marketing and economic development at Families in Transition – New Horizons, said the OutFITters Thrift Store in Concord did about 20 percent more business than last year.
During the construction project, that festival bump was welcome.
“We’re trying to get more people downtown because we’re still open for business,” Talwani said. “It was awesome to have such great sales and have the register ring more than it ever has.”
She agreed the change in date drew more people to Market Days.
“We would love to see it in June again,” she said. “July is tough because people are really in vacation mode.”
“The date change was very well received,” operations manager Liza Poinier said. “The people that we have spoken to have overwhelmingly said they like the June date, so we’ll be doing a lot of information gathering to decide what the date should be for future festivals.”
Next year’s festival will still need to work around the construction schedule for the Main Street project. While work on North Main Street is scheduled to wrap up this fall, the crews from Severino Trucking Co. will move to South Main Street in 2016. So Intown Concord likely won’t know the date for the next Market Days until this winter.
“We’re just going to be patient,” Poinier said.
In the meantime, the nonprofit will collect feedback from both merchants and guests.
“Last year, everyone said, ‘Wow, best Market Days ever,’ ” Poinier said. “This year, everyone’s saying, ‘Wow, best Market Days ever.’ How do you keep getting better?”
Did you agree? Weigh in on the post-festival survey at intownconcord.org.
This week is the last week of work on the east side of North Main Street, according to an update in the city manager’s weekly newsletter.
On Monday, the crews will finish placing pavers at the Phenix Hall plaza. On Tuesday, the northbound lane is scheduled for final paving.
During the rest of the week, crews will paint lines and street markings on the new street.
The construction will move to the west side of North Main Street during the week of July 13. For more information or to sign up for email updates about downtown construction, visit concordmainstreetproject.com.
Gibson’s Bookstore and 24 other businesses are again participating in a Where’s Waldo scavenger hunt through downtown.
Small Waldos will be hidden around those stores for the entire month of July. When a watchful eye can spot the bespectacled target, an employee will stamp a passport to mark the victory.
“It brings people into new businesses they’ve never had a reason to go into,” said Elisabeth Jewell, events coordinator for Gibson’s.
The passport can be picked up to start the scavenger hunt at any of the participating businesses, and it should be turned in at Gibson’s once at least 20 stamps have been collected.
The first 125 people to turn in their passports will receive a $1 off coupon for the bookstore and an “I Found Waldo” button. Gibson’s will host a celebration and prize drawing July 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the bookstore; prizes include a six-volume deluxe set of Waldo books.
The scavenger hunt is free and open to all ages.
For more information, call Gibson’s at 224-0562.