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Downtown stakeholders evaluate recent special events for improvements

SALISBURY — Downtown business owners, Downtown Salisbury Inc. staff members and city officials discussed how to improve promotions and capitalize on other events at their quarterly stakeholder meeting Wednesday morning at Sweet Meadow Cafe.

The retailers and restaurateurs spoke about how to bring more people downtown with promotions such as Krazy Klearance/Restaurant Week, which ran July 17 to Saturday.

Hive owner Michelle Pentoney said she felt underprepared for the event as a new business owner. She said she was on vacation, which didn’t help with the confusion. She said she did not know that she could set up displays outside her shop and that customers would be given a coupon.

“I feel like I was out of the loop on this one,” Pentoney said.

DSI Director Larissa Harper agreed that new businesses need mentoring. She told Pentoney that shops can put their wares on the street as long as there is a 5-foot space on the sidewalk for pedestrians.

Gianni Moscardini, who owns La Cava and Salty Caper restaurants, said no customers brought in receipts during Krazy Klearance for a discount on their meal.

Moscardini said the draw of the newly created Restaurant Week in downtown is to play on Charlotte’s restaurant week but also make it Salisbury-friendly. La Cava can serve a three-course meal for $30 to $35, but other restaurants cannot, he said.

Pam Coffield, the owner of Stitchin’ Post Gifts, said many shoppers, particularly older ones, know about Krazy Klearance since it is held the third weekend of July.

Several downtown stakeholders said banners advertising the event should be put up on light poles and other places downtown.

“It helps make a city look alive,” said Bob Lambrecht, the owner of Critters Gifts. “Little towns all have them.”

Jackie Wilson of Fine Frame Gallery said banners would attract people driving through downtown.

Diane Young, a downtown property owner and DSI board member, said banners can be reused year after year if the bottom portion is changed to modify the dates.

Mike Miller, owner of marketing firm Miller Davis, said consistency is key for downtown promotions.

“It’s all about that consistency, because people remember it,” Miller said.

The group also discussed last month’s Gallery Gallop and some improvements that could be made going forward.

Heather Teeter, the owner of Sweet Meadow Cafe, said businesses should partner with arts organizations for Gallery Gallop.

“If we don’t capitalize, that’s silly,” Teeter said.

Priscilla Clark, the owner of Priscilla’s, said many people she saw at Gallery Gallop stopped to look at items on the street but didn’t come inside her shop.

Clark said she and other business owners could have an art activity, especially for kids, for future Gallery Gallops. Pentoney said she would be willing to host an art project at Hive.

Looking ahead, the group talked about creating more promotions, including the possibility of bringing back First Friday. Miller suggested hosting an event during the N.C. Transportation Museum’s Polar Express, which attracts many tourists.

“We don’t do anything to pull them a half mile or mile down the road,” Miller said. “Where are those things that can be tapped into?”

Moscardini said the merchants should look at big events and take advantage of them.

Harper shared a survey that asked participants if they were in favor of having a programmed event on the first Friday of every month. The majority of respondents were in favor. In a follow-up question about what First Friday should feature, someone suggested linking it to a holiday in the month.

Harper asked for feedback about having a monthly event but not necessarily on the first Friday. Should they capture an audience that is already downtown on Friday night or pick a slower day to boost attendance?

Bob Potter, owner of Salisbury Wine Shop, has a wine tasting on Friday nights that has made the store a destination.

Teeter said, when planning events, organizers should think about how they affect restaurants and retail shops differently. She suggested creating two subcommittees, one for restaurant owners and one for shop owners.

Moscardini said the two groups would work as a unit but meet different needs.

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