Make it work for everyone

Main Street merchants have a point, but they should meet organizers half way

Downtown merchants were less than enthusiastic about moving the Pear Blossom street fair to The Commons this year. Festival organizers should listen to their concerns and do what they can to make things better next year. And the merchants should take a little responsibility for their own success — as one did.

This was the first year that the street fair was held in the new Park Block in The Commons. Several Main Street merchants told the Mail Tribune their business was down substantially from past years, when the fair was held in Alba Park.

Never mind that the fair was one block off Main Street at the closest point and a short stroll from either end of the retail corridor. People apparently will not stray far from the elephant ears in search of healthier fare or a new summer frock.

But they might if they had an incentive to do so.

Pear Blossom organizers noted the new Park Block was used as it was intended — to hold community events in a space designed for the purpose. They also said downtown merchants were offered space at the street fair for a reduced price, but only one took advantage of the offer.

We understand the reluctance. For a small mom-and-pop operation, it might mean closing the store on Main Street to staff a booth. For a restaurant, off-site food service can be a challenge if you don't have the equipment and trained staff to pull it off.

Still, if the Heart of Medford Association makes it attractive enough, it might pay for more merchants to take a shot at it next year. Merchants could help organize an event that encourages people to visit various establishments on Main Street, such as a "passport" event in which patrons collect stamps from businesses to qualify for a prize drawing, for instance.

Merchants also should take some initiative to capitalize on the foot traffic during the parade. Havana Republic did just that, placing a coffee stand on the sidewalk in front and serving breakfast starting at 9. A manager reported their sales were up over last year.

Change is never smooth and easy for everyone. There is a certain comfort in doing things the way they've always been done.

As people get accustomed to The Commons being used for community events — the Growers' Market opens its season there Saturday — traffic is bound to filter over to Main Street. With some give and take on both sides, we're confident The Commons will wind up being a good thing for downtown in the long run.

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