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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Midway Business Association discusses problem of some stores not staying open later or on some days

The Midway Business Association has new leadership, more members and better turnout at its meetings, but the chronic issue of limited store hours won't go away.

Former association president Kenny Smith made sure of that at Wednesday's monthly meeting, as he revived his longstanding concern that downtown stores aren't open late enough or often enough. That disappoints visitors to Midway, so "It hurts the whole town," said Smith, owner of Kennydid Gallery. "We are just a part-time retail place."

MBA Treasurer Leslie Penn of the Historic Midway Museum Store retorted, "We are not a mall." She said later that the merchants who cause the problem don't attend meetings of the association.

Peggy Angel
Recently installed MBA President Peggy Angel said personal conviction keeps her from opening her Steppin' Out Boutique on Sundays, but said longer store hours downtown "would be helpful. But everybody, we've got to work together. . . . We have to be careful. We just can't push it. We have to make them think it's their idea."

City Council Member Steve Simoff, who operates the Horse Country Cottage bed-and-breakfast, said "I don't think you're going to get cooperation." Later, he said, "I think you should just close at 5 and let the restaurants support the city."

Simoff echoed another concern Smith voiced, that some store owners and employees park in front of other businesses, taking spaces that should be left open for customers. "I think we've blown the parking thing," Simoff said, noting what he said was a missed opportunity to establish a parking lot behind Damselfly Gallery.

Steve Morgan of Kentucky Honey Farms, chair of the MBA membership committee, noted that a task force is trying to recruit a brewery or distillery to town, which would increase tourism and encourage longer store hours.

The merchants agreed that stores should be encouraged to stay open late during this year's Midsummer Nights in Midway events, scheduled by Midway Renaissance for June 30, July 28 and August 25. Angel suggested that the merchants have sidewalk sales on those three Fridays.

One of the Sawhorse Derby entries is in front of City Hall.
The MBA's current event is the Sawhorse Derby, in which shoppers vote for their favorite sawhorse among those decorated as racing horses. The promotion will conclude with an event on the afternoon of April 29. Morgan said four of the 17 sawhorses are displayed by non-members of the association.

In other business, Adele Dickerson of the Woodford County Farmers' Market announced that it will open for the season in Midway on Monday, May 1.

Don Vizi, executive director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, invited all Midway businesses to attend a meeting of the chamber's board of directors at 8 a.m. April 27 at Midway University.

The association meets at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, upstairs at City Hall.

The Midway Messenger is a non-voting member of the Midway Business Association.

1 comment:

Wayne Stacy said...

It is the same problem, that has always been a problem in Frankfort and Midway; and other small towns looking for an identity. Stores open after state employees go to work, and want to be closed before they get off work.

Retail opening times have never been as important as restaurant opening times for breakfast crowds; but retail closing times directly impact the bottom line sales figures.

The problem is now, and has always been the attitudes of ownership and the "clientele" they choose to cater to. The majority of "art house" boutique businesses are owned by those who have a comfortable income from some other primary revenue stream, and are in most instances "retired". In many instances they do not care about "local traffic"; they cater to the tourism dollars generated during weekend hours and special events, like Keeneland meets, festival weekends (like Francisco's Farm) and appointment only openings. They don't advertise, they don't care about perceptions, and they aren't concerned about the impact of their doors being closed having on the businesses around them.

As an artist with work on display in Midway numerous times, it was frustrating to me to get emails and messages from prospective clients who saw my work through store windows; but couldn't buy it, because the business seemed to always be closed...in the end it wasn't worth leaving inventory in a business where the presence wasn't generating sales.

As the former GM and Marketing Director of Frankfort's Cornerstone Art Gallery, I had to constantly "fight" with the owner because she had the same mindset as those business owners in Midway...she wanted to stay open the least amount of hours possible; close the doors if and when she wanted to; wasn't concerned about local traffic; expected people to call us if they saw something they wanted through the windows, etc, etc.

That business model rarely works in a rural environment; it might do well in the Hamptons, or Martha's Vineyard; but rarely anywhere else. It's a huge contributing factor to the "rotating brands" that Midway and other storefront locations fall victim to. Where a business opens up, expects to follow that model...and fails misirably within the first two years, sometimes they don't last a full year....and then a new business rotates in. That attitude by the owner of the Cornerstone was why I had to walk away after three years, and the doors closed 5 months later.

With the advent of the internet and online sales, it is becoming ever harder to keep a brick and mortar store open anyway; but when you compound that by being lackadaisical with your attitudes about customer appreciation...you doom your business to failure.

Wayne Stacy
Photographer / Owner
Photographic-Magic Photography
Photographic-magic.com