Shopkeepers band together to attract customers

Brown Cycles Owner Chris Brown wants people to come to “the cool block” this holiday season.

Brown Cycles, 549 Main St., is one of the many businesses on the 500 block of Main Street banding together from Thanksgiving to Christmas to promote its retail and food establishments. The group, comprising 80 percent of the storefronts on the block, even made T-shirts with “500 Block” printed on them.

Participating stores will stay open until 9 p.m. Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, 11 and 18. The Downtown Development Authority has hired Santa Claus to walk around the block Friday evenings, and the pick-up and drop-off sites for free carriage rides will be in the middle of the 500 block.

Musicians will play inside Triple Play Records, 530 Main St., and Toys for the Fun of It, 519 Main St., will offer crafts for kids. Brown Cycles will have barbecued brats Nov. 27, meatballs on a stick and a Christmas bicycle bells game Dec. 4, roasted chestnuts and stationary bicycle races Dec. 11, and it will have people pedal bikes to create Christmas music Dec. 18. Learning Works, 546 Main St., will offer free cookies.

Kairos, 129 S. Sixth St., will have a different kids game each Friday, and Dirty Brown Cycles, 123 S. Sixth St., will have prizes Nov. 27, Christmas trees and roasted chestnuts Dec. 4, and green machine cycles with lights Dec. 11. Other stores are still cooking up ideas.

Karin Allen, who co-owns Toys for the Fun of It with her husband, Mike, said it’s hard for locally-owned shops on Main St. to staff extra hours during the holiday season. But with sales down this year, she hopes the extra effort will pay off.

“We need it to,” she said.

Allen noticed the weekends of Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 seemed a bit bare for activities and decided she and some of her neighbors should look into creating some extra fun for shoppers. She’s calling Fridays during the holiday season “Fantabulous Fantastic Friday Nights.”

Brown said focusing on one block rather than all of Main Street was simply seen as more efficient.

“We’re more effective if we work with our neighbors,” he said. “It’s too hard for me to energize a whole street. It’s easier to energize a few surrounding stores.”


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