Silly Market-goers spread their dollars around
Doug Hollinger remembers how poor sales were at his Park City Clothing last year on Sundays in the summer and early fall, sometimes down as much as nearly 70 percent.
The Park Silly Sunday Market, occurring on lower Main Street, a few blocks north of his store, funneled crowds there, leaving few customers for the shops and restaurants on the upper stretch of the street, businesspeople like Hollinger argued.
But on Sunday, the opening day of this year’s Silly Market, crowds were seen up and down Main Street as the event’s reconfiguration made its debut. The Silly Market organizers situated attractions like a farmers market on the upper portion of Main Street in an effort to entice crowds up the street from the Silly Market’s traditional site.
"It’s drawing people up on the street. In past years, by the time you hit the post office, it was dead," Hollinger said, acknowledging that his business changed locations since the final Silly Market in 2009 and his current spot, more visible than the older one, is another reason business was solid on Sunday.
Hollinger said he expected Sunday sales to be as good or better than a typical Sunday, a dramatic increase from the falloff in business during the Silly Market in previous years.
The not-for-profit Silly Market, now in its fourth year, instituted the most wide-ranging changes in the setup to date for 2010, an acknowledgement of the strained relations between the event and the businesses south of Heber Avenue and a result of negotiations tied to the inking a long-term deal with City Hall to stage the event on Main Street.
"At least I like this better. They’re on the right track," Hollinger said.
The Silly Market’s expansion uphill appeared to be received well on Sunday, with what seemed to be the largest crowds on Main Street since the ski season. A Silly Market-organized farmers market situated on the north side of the Main Street post office, one of the new additions this year, looked to be especially popular.
"The energy of all of Main Street — that’s what I loved the most," said Kimberly Kuehn, the CEO of the event and one of its founders.
Kuehn last winter had considered shifting the Silly Market elsewhere in Park City or the Snyderville Basin after her side and City Hall were initially unable to reach a long-term agreement. But City Hall later offered the Silly Market incentives to remain on Main Street.
As a result of the negotiations, the Silly Market agreed to expand its presence to upper Main Street. Signs pointed people to up the hill, music enticed people to pockets of entertainment and the businesses tried to capitalize with promotions.
This year’s Silly Market is scheduled to run until Sept. 26, and the organizers hope to draw a little more than 100,000, up from the 90,000 who attended in 2009. Between 120 and 130 vendors will have space each week, with the sellers rotating throughout the summer and fall.
At the Silly Market’s lower Main Street base, the crowds perused the merchandise, the food vendors and the not-for-profit booths as musicians performed. Silly Market organizers had not released an attendance count by late Monday, but the crowds likely were smaller than expected as many might have stayed home instead of braving the rainy weather.
Outside Bandit’s Grill and Bar, a restaurant on upper Main Street, a chalkboard sign advertised "Silly Sunday Specials," with menu items like pulled-pork sandwiches selling for $6.99. Kristin Parkin, the manager at the restaurant, said it was the first-ever special tied to the Silly Market.
"I think it’s helping. Sundays we usually get a late rush. Today it’s come earlier," Parkin said, calling business at midday just OK but "definitely better than last Sunday."
She said the customers were a mix of Parkites and people in Park City for the Silly Market. Parkin said Bandit’s plans to offer Silly Sunday Specials each week during the market to compete with the food booths at the market.
"It’s the same price or cheaper than the vendors," she said.
The Christian Center of Park City had a makeover last year, and its boutique felt it was time for one, too.