Berlin Revamps Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale Event; No Main Street Closure Planned

BERLIN – The town’s annual August sidewalk sale will continue this year, albeit with a few minor changes.

Following concerns voiced by merchants who weren’t participating in the sale, Berlin’s Mayor and Council asked the town’s business community to work together to come up with an event that would appease everyone. On Monday, they praised the changes that had been made and approved the Berlin Summer Sidewalk Sale for the weekend of Aug. 14.

“I think the proposal is fair and reasonable,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “It gives downtown businesses a choice.”

According to Ivy Wells, the town’s economic development director, the sidewalk sale will be held Aug. 14-16. On Friday, Aug. 14, and Sunday, Aug. 16, participating businesses will set up tables of merchandise on the sidewalk outside their shops.

On Saturday, the sidewalk sale will not include the closure of Main Street that was previously proposed but rather just the closure of Commerce Street. That will allow businesses, particularly Victorian Charm — which is located at the corner of Commerce Street and Main Street — more space for their wares.

Wells pointed out that the street closure would not affect the Taylor Bank drive-through, as that bank branch was closed Saturdays.

Though the sidewalk sale was originally proposed by Debbie and Steve Frene of Victorian Charm, Wells said she had since taken it on under the Main Street program. She said it was open to all downtown businesses even though the only ones that have committed so far are the Atlantic Hotel, Victorian Charm, World of Toys and Town Center Antiques.

“The sidewalks will be available for all businesses to use,” she said. “Just because it says sidewalk sale doesn’t mean the stuff on the sidewalk has to be for sale.”

Last month, Patty Falck of Ta Da spoke out against the sidewalk sale. She said the town was so busy now it no longer needed a sidewalk sale to bring people to town. She said it was also misleading to call the event the Berlin Sidewalk Sale when not all businesses in town participated.

“I don’t want to put my items on sale in the prime of the season,” she told the council in June.

She added that the October sidewalk sale started by the town in recent years was more popular with merchants.

To address her concerns, Wells changed the name of the August event to the Berlin Summer Sidewalk Sale and said the fall sale would again be held during Octoberfest. She pointed out sidewalk sales were a good way to accommodate the downtown business community.

“It shows we are business friendly to allow all businesses to use the sidewalk for that day,” she said.

Councilmember Lisa Hall praised the reconfigured event.

“It seems to me it’s a good compromise,” she said. “You can choose to participate if you like.”