Sunday, July 12, 2015

Street Closure Rant #2

My friend Paul complained that I've done insufficient ranting about street closures this year.

Well, hell.  I've given up.  If it isn't obvious by now that street closures are counter productive, what will make it obvious?

Pegasus Books is well into it's 36th year of business downtown.  I long ago decided to let everyone else make their own choices, and I'd go my own way.  That appears to have been the right choice.  Most everyone that told me I was wrong over the years is gone, long gone.

The best example is the business owner who told me the street closures "are the best thing we've ever done" and who was gone two days later.  Literally.  Glad it helped.

But you know what?  Just go downtown on a non-event weekend in the summer and tell me we haven't succeeded already.  The streets are packed with shoppers and diners.

Sometimes it's best to let downtown be downtown.

But...we've decided that isn't good enough.  Better to distract them with other things.  Music and outside venders and just about anything else that isn't pointed at our stores.  Let them spend money with outside vendors, and drive away the regulars.

Actually, "decided" isn't the right word.  This stuff is on autopilot now.  Events continue to grow in numbers and sizes and no one says "Enough!"

We're like a guy in a hole who was dying from lack of water, and we get a pail of water thrown on us.  We say, Thank You, Sir, do it again.  And when the hole is so full of water we've drowned, the water just keeps on sloshing. Because the guy sloshing the water needs his job, and the guy who sells the water makes money, and it is fun to watch. Or taxes collected to build something and it gets built and we keep on building until the structure falls over. Or...I don't know what.  When is enough enough?

It doesn't hurt my store as much as it used to, because I've learned to mainstream my store.  If they're going to drive away my regulars, then I'd better have something for the non-regulars, right?  It was a natural evolution to my store, and one could even say, "See, we've helped you adapt."

I've never trusted that reasoning, though.  It's a bit like a bully saying, "See? Beating you up all the time made you stronger?"  Uh, thanks?  Besides, this evolution happened because of the changes downtown, not the street closures.

The truth is, events aren't really for the downtown stores.  We're just the enablers.  We've been told that it's good for us and no one can prove otherwise. I've been told to shut up, it's for the public, but you know there are plenty of public spaces.  We pay rent throughout the year, only to have our space taken over during the busiest months.  Even the Old Mill doesn't close their streets for events, nor do any of the other private shopping malls.  Why do you suppose that is?

Yesterday we did probably about half of what I would have expected on a Saturday in July.  Sure, it was cloudy and rainy, but you know what?  That is usually a good formula for business in the summer, as tourists look for something else to do.  But not this time.

So there's my rant.  Not that it's going to change anything. 


No comments: