Sundance gives a bump to Main Street businesses
Between the snaking lanes of traffic and the crowds milling around the streets, it’s no secret that the Sundance Film Festival pulls in crowds, big crowds. But whether or not those crowds are spending money is another matter, one that has ebbed and flowed along with the economy.
Though it will be weeks before Main Street merchants hand in surveys to the Historic Park City Alliance, months before an official report on the economic impact of the film festival is released from the Sundance Institute, merchants on Main Street are upbeat about recent sales. The consensus is that business is up from last year.
"The word on the street was that Sundance was good for merchants," said Alison Butz, the executive director of the HPCA. "There was more traffic than last year."
"All in all, it sounds like a majority of people had a good Sundance," she added. "Last year, there were issues with the weather. I don’t know if that helped this year, but it could be a factor."
Maren Mullin, the president of the HPCA and the Park City Gallery Association said she had the chance to speak with several fellow merchants and was pleased with the feedback she was receiving.
"Midweek we were still seeing good momentum," Mullin said. "Typically, there is a big differential between traffic in the first and second weekend. This year, there was much more traffic midweek, and that may have been the good weather. We had beautiful sunny days all week long."
In the second week, when traffic usually slows in her business, Gallery Mar, she said more collectors and clients were flying into town.
"From what I’ve heard, business in general has seen an increase this year," she added. " we are really grateful. It is enthusiastic to see the number of people walking on the streets and eating in the restaurants."
But even in fat years, merchants still have concerns that city policies during the festival could be hindering the number of people able to visit the businesses. Owner of both the No Name Saloon and Butcher’s Chop House Jesse Shetler said he is still hoping to see parking reform in the second week of the festival.
"Park City really needs to free up parking in the Old Town corridor," Shetler said. "That’s certainly true on Main Street and on Park Avenue. On Main Street, they could easily open one side up. There is no reason not to have parking available."
Parking concerns and business traffic have been an ongoing discussion between merchants and the city since a policy to prohibit street parking during the festival was first instituted. City officials have said the extra foot traffic combined with vehicle traffic would create the potential for accidents. The merchants believe the pedestrians visiting for Sundance know their way around congested roads, that closing the street is an excessive precaution.
"People have not complained about parking as much this year," Butz said. " but the organization would love to have street parking put back on (Main Street)."
In spite of ongoing concerns about the potential impact of limiting parking, businesses are still reporting major growth this year. Shetler estimated sales to be up in the double digits at both Main Street businesses. At No Name Saloon, he expected sales to be up by 15 percent. At Butcher’s Chop House, he expected that number of increased sales to hover around the 10 percent mark from last year to this.
"This was the best Sundance Film Festival we have had for both my businesses since 2007," Shetler said. "It was record-breaking.
"For the past four or five years, including last year, the numbers were not as spectacular, even though they were still good. It wasn’t the kind of business we had done in the past. After a few mediocre years of Sundance, this year felt like the festival was so much more vibrant."
Blaire Isleib, Co-Owner of Flight Boutique, added to the thought, estimating 300 to 400 people coming into the boutique clothing store every day.
"This year was really good, definitely up from past years," she said. " Our sales were up quite a bit, more than 50 percent I’d guess."
"We count on Sundance, so we gear up for it and put money into inventory. We were really happy with sales."
Jennifer McDonald, a self-described lifelong Republican, was selected as the Summit County Republican Party chair last week.