Market Days offers new Main Street business owners an introduction to Concord customers
Kathy Bush, right, and Ed Bush of Penacook browse articles of clothing for sale in front of Fabulous Looks Boutique in downtown Concord during Market Days on July 18, 2014.
(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)
From left, Sarah Mann, Kaley Farmer and Ben Barss, all of Warner, prepare food in the Yankee Farmer's Market booth as Dusty Gray of Concord waits for his order at Market Days in downtown Concord on July 18, 2014.
(WILL PARSON/Monitor staff)
Standing beneath the sign for YoYo Heaven on Saturday, owner Andy McBride expertly drew a yo-yo in and out of his grasp, twirling the string between his fingers. Beneath his feet, words written in chalk on the sidewalk spelled out: “Throw Zone, Trick Center.” In front of him, a 20-foot green carpet graffitied in drawings and sayings like “Way cool” and “Too rad,” lined the way from Main Street to the store.
It was part of his setup to attract Market Days passers-by to the yo-yo store that he opened last October on 132½ N. Main St. And on Saturday morning, McBride was outside watching the traffic pick up.
For many new Concord businesses that have sprung up along Main Street within the past year, the first Market Days experience was a chance to lure in new customers who don’t normally frequent the downtown area and aren’t aware of the changing storefronts.
For McBride, increasing the foot traffic to YoYo Heaven is a big business driver. When it opened last fall, McBride envisioned the store as a place where kids could get their hands on yo-yos for a test spin. He thought most of the revenue would come from the business’s online sales.
“It’s actually been the other way around,” he said.
That means getting extra traffic during Market Days could equal a spike in sales. Over the three-day event, McBride estimates the store saw a 75 percent uptick in visitors.
It “has been huge for us as far as exposure goes; a lot of people have come through the door and said, ‘We didn’t even know you were here, we found you, we’ll be back,’ ” he said. “It gets people downtown so they know what’s here.”
During Market Days, the 5-month-old restaurant Gyro House saw about a 15 percent uptick in business, said owner Theodora Hinxhia. At the “beginning I was nervous because there are so many tents out there, fried dough, french fries,” she said. “But we still have a good business, in fact it did gain a lot.”
Since Gyro House opened its doors on Main Street, it has developed a regular customer base, Hinxhia said. The restaurant’s first Market Days was drawing in a new crowd.
“People are coming from different areas, places that have never been here,” she said. “I love it.”
The restaurant had about four tables out front during the event, but next year Hinxhia has plans for a bigger street presence. She wants to put out larger tables, a big tent and serve appetizers that people can taste before coming in. “Even though (I’m) not doing that this year, I am very happy,” she said.
The owners of Wellington’s Marketplace, a store that opened a few months ago at 124 N. Main St., also have bigger plans for Market Days next year. This year, the store’s owners, Debra and Randy Barnes, were mostly scoping the scene out.
“We weren’t really sure what to expect from Market Days so we thought, ‘Okay, let’s just see what’s best,’ ” Randy Barnes said.
The event helped to drive a new stream of customers to the specialty store that sells wines, cheeses, meats and prepared food items. On Friday, the Barnes’s extended the store’s business hours until 7 p.m. because so many customers came.
“It’s really nice to see people downtown after 6 p.m., usually at 6:01 everyone’s gone,” Barnes said. Next year, the couple has plans to expand their Market Days presence.
“After seeing some ideas, we’ll probably put more tables out, umbrellas,” Barnes said.
YoYo Heaven began preparations weeks ahead of time for its Market Days debut. The store stocked extra yo-yos, set up spots out front where kids could experiment and brought in a world-ranked yo-yoer to put on demonstrations and train children.
“We were ready like two weeks ahead of time,” McBride said.
Runner’s Alley, which opened in May at 142 N. Main St., also prepared ahead of time, getting several sales and deals in order. The store operated a tent out front, and on the first day gave out sample GU Energy packets for runners until the stock ran out.
“It’s been really successful,” said store manager Sean Gray. “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s been busy from 9 a.m. all the way until we close at 9 to 10 p.m.”
Next year, Gray said the store may try to get more games and giveaways. It will also look into organizing more group runs.
Overall, the big gain from the event is exposure, he said. “Many people walk by the tent going, ‘I didn’t know Runner’s Alley is in Concord yet,’ ” Gray said. “We have been trying our best to advertise, but exposure is one of the best ways, and this is great.”
The new Main Street business owners had few complaints about the Market Days event.
Hinxhia had expected more vendors and noticed some gaps along the street. “More vendors would probably help us,” she said.
McBride said he hopes the vendors spread out more evenly along Main Street. Most of Main Street’s newest businesses are located near the intersection of Main and Centre streets. Most of the activities are packed down toward the Pleasant Street intersection, he said.
“It would be good if we could spread out activities so it goes end to end,” he said. It would be “good to drive more traffic down this way.”
Overall, though, people were upbeat.
On Saturday morning, Debra and Randy Barnes sat at one of the two tables outside Wellington’s Marketplace greeting incoming customers. A man approached them and asked if they were the owners.
“This is great, this is the first time I have even noticed that it was here,” he told them. “It’s really nice to have something like this in Concord.”
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)