BUSINESS

Sidewalk Days in downtown Greencastle gets mixed reviews for 2014 version

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Shoppers tried on shoes at elm Shoes as Joel Fridgen, Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce director, adjusted signs directing people to the new parking lot area of Sidewalk Days.

A change from 'the way it has always been done' left some people pleased, and others irate, for Greencastle's Sidewalk Days. The summer tradition, held the second Friday and Saturday of each July, found vendors moved to different locations for two reasons. According to Joel Fridgen, executive director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the downtown shopping days, outside booths were moved off of the south side of East Baltimore Street for safety reasons, and off of most of South Carlisle Street for street construction.

In the past, vendors set up on both sides of Baltimore Street, but with heavier tractor-trailer traffic in recent years, it became dangerous for the vendors, he said. Therefore, he cleared the south side, with no parking allowed either, so eastbound trucks could veer right if meeting westbound trucks. Because the status of street construction on South Carlisle and East Franklin streets was unknown in February when Sidewalk Days plans got underway, sections of the south end of Carlisle were also eliminated as sites for vendors, in case borough or gas company crews were digging up the streets in July.

Booths typically set up at those sites were moved to North Carlisle Street, in the parking lots of The Life Center and Susquehanna Bank.

Some vendors and customers liked it, some didn't. Some had great business over the two days, some saw sagging sales. Some also believed the culprit was the economy, or even the weather.

Change

Judy Stotler, owner of Judy's Mints, used to set up her wares on East Baltimore Street. She sold Longaberger items, hats, Boyds Bears and other collectibles. This year she was in the Life Center parking lot.

"This location works much better than dealing with the traffic on the streets," she said. "Customers comment they like it better too."

Ellen Engle sold Tupperware from the farthest end of the lot, and liked the area because it was quieter and safer, but felt people didn't know they were there.

"We are sort of lost."

Next to the sidewalk on North Carlisle, Trinity Lutheran Church sold baked goods and ice cream. They used to sell from South Carlisle Street.

"I don't like it here," said Shirley Freeman, one of five members of the congregation taking a shift. "In front of Zarger's was better."

The church had to bring in a trailer for water and a source of electricity, something the plumbing store had provided in the past.

Shopper Penni Baker saw a benefit to North Carlisle Street.

"I like it. It feels safer and you can browse longer. It is easier to shop."

First-time Sidewalk Days visitor Victoria Daley made a quick sweep through the area and liked what she saw. She found makeup at Vogue to Vintage, also a first-time merchant. Tess Bryson, working for the business, said as a Sidewalk Days shopper in previous years, it appeared attendance was down.

Tim Stenger, Premier HVAC, was not looking forward to the early evening sun hitting him in the face from his table on the northwest corner of Center Square.

"It's not really my thing to stand out here," he said, but it was good exposure for his business.

One woman called the heat "brutal". She had purchased something in particular she had been looking for, and planned to go home for the afternoon, then return in the evening.

Fridgen heard the positive and negative comments as he oversaw operations on July 11 and 12.

"The crowd was lighter than last year both days," he said. "Vendors said that is true in other shows they have been at, too. They attribute it to the economy; some people are still hurting."

Nevertheless, Fridgen said some stores reported robust sales, and some didn't do as well as they had expected. Sidewalk Days had more vendors than before though, in part due to those in the parking lots receiving more space for the same price, so they could bring more merchandise.

He also encountered some glitches that hadn't occurred other years, such as power outages and vendors setting up in the wrong spaces. The popularity of the Kids Zone was also underestimated, so supplies ran out Saturday afternoon. Also, it was an ongoing effort to place signs at the right spots to direct people to the new sites.

Next year

Fridgen will analyze comments from the merchants, and wanted to find a way to better support the businesses on the south side of East Baltimore Street. It was possible that smaller vendors, needing only a card table, could be on the sidewalk if the borough approved, he said. South Carlisle Street would again be open for vendors, since construction would be over by next July, he added.

"We'll keep tweaking."