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Silly Market retools, restarts

The Park Silly Sunday Market, the lower Main Street bazaar that drew big crowds last year but created a rift between merchants on the lower and upper stretches of the street, starts its second season on Sunday.

The Silly Market organizers and people on Main Street are anxious for the opening, with both groups hoping the success on lower Main Street in 2007 spreads uphill in 2008. The organizers and City Hall agreed to a package of changes in 2008 meant to boost business at the stores and restaurants uphill from Heber Avenue.

"We want everybody to be happy . . . We want it to work for everybody," says Kimberly Kuehn, a co-founder and the executive director of the Silly Market, a nonprofit organization.

The Silly Market’s debut year was a surprise hit with Parkites, people from the Salt Lake Valley and vacationers from outside of Utah. It offers an eclectic mix of artists, craftsmen, nonprofit causes, food booths and entertainment, meant to draw on Park City’s reputation as a funky alternative to the Salt Lake area.

The crowds in 2007 averaged between 1,500 and 2,000 people each Sunday, according to numbers compiled by the Silly Market, with about 4,000 people attending an Oktoberfest-themed day in the fall. Kuehn hopes to attract between 2,000 and 3,000 people each Sunday this year.

The market holds space for between 90 and 110 vendors each week, and Kuehn says the organizers have received between 300 and 400 applications for the vendor spots, primarily from Park City and surrounding Summit County. Kuehn wants to offer a spot for at least a few weeks to each of the people who want space. The vendors in 2007 rotated, and many were from Park City.

"We want to buy in our own backyard, to support our locals," Kuehn says, adding, "It’s kind of like this feeling of community on Sunday."

People in 2007 crowded onto lower Main Street, which was closed to traffic on Sundays for the Silly Market, in the morning and many stayed through the afternoon. Some merchants on lower Main Street welcomed the crowds, but there were complaints from upper Main Street about business plummeting on Sundays. The trend somewhat reversed more than a decade of complaints about lackluster sales from some on lower Main Street.

A nonscientific survey conducted by the Historic Main Street Business Alliance, a merchants group, after the 2007 Silly Market season found disparities between the 49 businesses that were polled. About 42 percent told the alliance there Sunday sales did not change much from previous years. Fourteen percent said sales were up 10 percent or more, but another 14 percent said their receipts were down 10 percent or more.

The alliance also found about 75 percent of those polled wanted the Silly Market to return in 2008.

Ken Davis, who leads the business alliance, maintains the Silly Market in 2007 hurt sales on upper Main Street, and others have made similar assertions since the first season ended.

"People go down and end up spending time and money," Davis says, describing that people who visit Main Street for the Silly Market generally do not then visit the stores and restaurants on upper Main Street.

He says the business alliance plans to conduct a study this year to detail the effects on sales of the Silly Market. Some businesses in 2007 were down "substantially" on Sundays from the year before, Davis says.

"I think everybody is hopeful the market brings the extra traffic they claim they would bring," Davis says.

At Park City Clothing Co., which sells Western wares in the Main Street Mall, owner Doug Hollinger says business dropped more than 50 percent on Sundays once the Silly Market opened. He is optimistic about this summer, saying some of the changes to the Silly Market could spur business.

"I’m just hoping Sundays are better for us than they were last year. If not, this will be difficult," he says, adding, "We’re just hoping it comes back to what it was."

Sunday sillies

When: The Park Silly Sunday Market runs Sundays from June 15 until Sept. 28.

Hours: 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., a change from the 2007 hours of 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The later hours are a bid to influence people to stay on Main Street until dinnertime.

Where: Main Street between Heber Avenue and 9th Street, and a portion of 9th Street. The Main Street trolley will be rerouted for easier access to upper Main Street.

Parking: Available without fee on nearby Swede Alley and the China Bridge garage. Time-limited paid parking is available on upper Main Street.

New in 2008: The Silly Market organizers say more farmers will have space, the Silly Market will offer an expanded beer garden, more activities will be for kids, more musicians will perform and additional nonprofits will be provided space.

Sidewalk sales: City Hall has agreed to allow merchants throughout Park City to hold more sidewalk sales, a result of what some saw as competition from the Silly Market. Merchants may hold five sidewalk sales of three days each and have additional sales on 15 Sundays to coincide with the Silly Market.


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