Silly Market might pull out of Main Street |

Silly Market might pull out of Main Street

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

One of the key figures in the Park Silly Sunday Market, appearing shaken after Park City leaders refused to endorse the idea of a long-term deal between the Silly Market and City Hall, indicated organizers will consider abandoning Main Street, a surprisingly blunt statement that capped a tense discussion about the event’s future.

Kimberly Kuehn, a cofounder of the event who leads the Silly Market’s negotiations with City Hall, made the comment in a brief exchange with Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council, telling the elected officials that her side had been "promised an answer" about the prospects of a multiyear agreement to stage the event on lower Main Street on Sundays in the summer and fall.

"We have to look at other options at this point," Kuehn said to Williams and the City Council.

The Park City leaders did not appear ready to press ahead quickly with the talks about a long-term agreement, citing a new study that shows the Silly Market’s effects on Main Street’s businesses have been mixed.

According to the consultant study, released this week, an equal percentage of businesses — 40 percent — told surveyors the Silly Market was very positive or positive for business as said the event was very negative or negative. The other 20 percent of the 47 businesses that responded to the question said there was not an effect. Meanwhile, the survey found that nearly three-quarters of the 79 businesses that responded to another key question — whether the Silly Market should continue to be held — wanted the event to remain intact.

In an interview after the discussion with Williams and the City Council, Kuehn acknowledged that there are four other locations that could accommodate the Silly Market if an agreement is not reached for Main Street. She declined to identify the other locations, saying she was in negotiations. It was not clear whether they are within the Park City limits or elsewhere on the West Side of Summit County.

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A new location would need to be spacious enough to hold the bustling bazaar of artists, craftsmen, food purveyors and performers. The Silly Market as it is now occupies lower Main Street and small stretches of side streets. It is likely that places such as the parking lots of the mountain resorts, Redstone Towne Center and The Yard off Kearns Boulevard could hold the Silly Market, as could other spots at Kimball Junction.

The not-for-profit Silly Market in the fall finished its third season on lower Main Street, and its popularity has soared from its first year, drawing close to 90,000 people in 2009 in what was its busiest year. The event draws big numbers from the Park City area as well as the Salt Lake Valley.

But many businesses on the upper stretch of Main Street, accustomed to being the preferred choice for shoppers and diners, have complained that Sunday sales have fallen dramatically since the Silly Market started. On lower Main Street, businesses are generally happier with the event. A bloc of merchants and a few other people interested in the Silly Market’s operations testified on Thursday, with the speakers covering a wide range of issues.

Ken Davis, who has Java Cow on the upper stretch of Main Street, told the elected officials that in some cases the effects of the Silly Market are "life and death in their business." Davis challenged the study’s findings. He said the results are "misleading" and did not clearly show the Silly Market’s impact on Main Street business. He said he is unhappy with the lost sales of the brick-and-mortar businesses.

"It’s not that I hate the market, OK?" he said.

But Kevin Doolan, who owns a namesake restaurant-bar on lower Main Street, close to the Silly Market locale, said his receipts were up 30 percent on Sundays, crediting his place’s convenience as the reason. If the Silly Market continues to grow in popularity, he said, the business will expand up Main Street.

"It’s grown every year. You can’t deny that," Doolan said.

Another supporter, Nylene O’Neal from the lower Main Street spa Mountain Body, said the Silly Market brings "happiness, joy" to Park City. She said businesses should change their marketing strategies to attract Silly Market visitors into their stores.

"If you get rid of that, you’re not helping us out on Main Street," she said.