In an informal poll of those strolling along Stonington’s downtown on Friday evening told Matt Skolnikoff, Stonington’s Economic Development Director, that the celebration event succeeded in drawing area visitors to the many sales and specials.
The goal was to increase traffic and retail activity during the fall “shoulder season,” or fall after Labor Day, which traditionally marks the end of the tourist season.
“Some places saw a tremendous increase in people for a Friday night after Labor Day,” said Skolnikoff. Many of these people were renters staying on the island, in Castine or somewhere on the Blue Hill Peninsula.
“There were some year-round folk checking out sales, but the event seemed to attract people who were staying in the area and looking for art, food and to see what was on sale,” said Skolnikoff.
The bump in traffic benefited Island Approaches. Andy Fuller, owner of Maine Camp Outfitters, said MCO’s store stayed open an extra three hours that evening, and offered a special sale and a Frisbee give-away.
“We did the same amount of business in those three hours that we usually do all day on Friday,” said Fuller. “We saw a big difference.”
Suzy Shepard of Suzy’s Scissor Shack said she had a great time. Shepard had food (including a very popular hot crab dip), shampoo and conditioner giveaways and live models showing off updos.
“I think people were a bit apprehensive about coming in to the salon,” said Shepard. “One person asked me ‘do I have to get a haircut?’ But this was just a meet-and-greet.”
Shepard said she thinks the event will only get better, as people “get more used to the idea.”
Nearly all downtown businesses participated, said Skolnikoff, although each business did so in its own way. Some offered live music, refreshments, giveaways or drawings. Others stayed open longer or later. The event was a success, said Skolnikoff, because of the enthusiasm of business owners.
“It was a collective effort individually,” said Skolnikoff, who said the “collective” part was advertising the event, but each business or organization was able to participate in its own way.
Skolnikoff said there are tentative plans for another downtown celebration in either October or November, and on December 1, the second annual holiday fair will take place.