Friday, June 26, 2009

Downer Classic Bicycle Race--Saturday, June 27th

An Advertisement For, and A Meditation On, the Downer Classic Bicycle Race, tonight (Friday June 26th, beer festival, 5-11 PM) and tomorrow (Saturday, June 27th, racing from 1 PM till I can't figure out when)

I'm not used to being involved with big events on the street. When Schwartz ran the Bay View Bash, we had a booth for the three years we were open. The first year we tried to sell bargain books, which was a bust. The second two years we sold marked-down bargain books and then second-hand books. It was a lot more successful, trafficwise, but probably not so in terms of profitability. In any case, the fest was not outside our door, but half a mile away. Business was as usual in the store, for better or worse.

Back when Schwartz was downtown, I worked a booth at Bastille Days, the French-themed festival on the east side of town. The theme was a little more stronger in those times, and we actually focused on French-themed books. And we had a few author events at various festivals. And one of my customers would love for us to try to sell some books at a farmers' market.

I kept out of the various Shorewood street festivals. And Brookfield and Mequon were in strip centers, so the biggest event we had was an annual sidewalk sale or a special children's Santa evening.

But now it's time for the Downer bike race, and I'm not exactly sure what to do except be open. Having watched all these festivals, plus many more that I've not worked but attended, it's usually hard to do buisiness as usual. Streets are blocked, sidewalks are crowded. A knowledgeable third party (not to be revealed) said these things are good business for the food and (especially) drink vendors but not so much for anyone else.

The races are very fun, almost mesmerizing. Boutique Bebe is organizing a kids' scavenger hunt, and there's also a kids' race. Here's more info on the Downer Classic.

It's going to be the first time that a lot of people see the store. But who wants to carry around books afterward? To that thinking, we're going to have free shipping on mailouts of $25 or more to one address.
The question is, do people come back next week (hurray) or do they wait until next year's fest (not so hurray)?

The classic example of this is Bastille Days. I use this example because I lived on the fringe of it for 20 years. It's put on by the East Town Merchants Association, but you'd be hard-pressed to find too many local non-food merchants involved. Too often these things become self-sustaning entities. East Town is now an org for Jazz in the Park, the Farmer's Market, and Bastille Days. Bastille Days is a series of snack booths, a lot of beer and wine, and traveling knickknack stands. It's got the "Storm the Bastille" race, there are some fun bands, and who doesn't love a beignet? But to me, the festival has evolved away from its original intent to promote the neighborhood where it is located.

I don't think that's what Downer Avenue wants. It would be my dream if someone came to the bike race and decided that they wanted a storefront business on our block (OK, not just any business; I'm a bit opinionated about what will and won't work for both the existing businesses and the surrounding community), but to fall in love with our street, you really have to do it on a day where there isn't a bike race.

So come to the Downer Classic bike race on Saturday, June 27th. But if you like the races, come back before next year.

No comments: