BERLIN – Downtown merchants are exploring the idea of expanding shop hours with the approach of the holiday season.
At a merchants’ meeting Tuesday, Lisa DiFebo-Osias pointed out that customers often came to dinner at DiFebo’s only to leave town right afterward because none of the shops were open in the evenings. She said extending hours could be something to consider.
“They come and then they leave,” she said. “They literally are looking in your windows. If any of you would ever consider extending your times, maybe just on a Friday or Saturday, look at the cars that are coming down the road. It’s just something to consider.”
Andrea Canon of House said she’d tried staying open late and hadn’t seen any customers.
“I think everybody has to do it,” she said.
Shelly Bruder of Bruder Hill and Bruder Home said she’d tried multiple times to stay open late. She said while people visited the shop, they rarely purchased much and said instead they were just browsing.
“As a business owner it’s really hard for us to stay open late and pay somebody and keep electric on and do all that,” Bruder said. “With the restaurants here, having all these people come, I think the people do come back. They see things in your window.”
Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, agreed that it was beneficial for businesses to keep their windows lit in the evenings. She said that since Island Creamery opened, the amount of foot traffic in town after dark had increased dramatically.
“When Island Creamery came, the town exploded at night,” she said. “I encourage all of you to put lights in your windows. Now that they’re walking around looking in, I think the next step would be to actually keep your shop open. I know there are open late flags some of the shops have ordered.”
Larnet St. Amant, director of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, said that businesses interested in staying open late on Fridays, for example, could partner together to purchase advertising to inform the public of the news. Wells said she too could promote the extended hours.
“I think the testing of it is a great idea,” DiFebo-Osias said.
Matt Burrier of Viking Tree Trading Co. said merchants could also do more to bring people to town. He said Viking Tree would be hosting musicians and featured artists certain evenings as a draw.
“We have to make something happen to make them come into the building,” he said.