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Sidewalk sale pulls people downtown

The table of ornaments and snowmen from Christmases past seemed a bit out of place as shoppers milled up and down Main Street Saturday afternoon with the mercury pushing above 90 degrees.

But not even the complete range of tie-dyed clothing in front of a furniture store was out of place.

Knickknacks, picture frames, home accents, shoes and furniture are staples of the annual Sidewalk Sale in Medford that attracts frequent and infrequent downtown shoppers for three days.

The sale has been a fixture for at least four decades and was once known as the Sidewalk and Crazy Days Sale, where prizes were given for the zaniest costume in the 1960s.

For many years the event was convenient seasonal inventory reduction sale for large retailers such as Miller's, Robinson's and JCPenney. When the big draws either headed for the Rogue Valley Mall in 1986 or went out of business, the event was one of the few that drew new customers downtown.

— Thanks to urban renewal, the commitment of shop owners who refused to give in and a new generation of entrepreneurs, the downtown retail district has re-emerged with new vigor. More and more proprietors are clearing out perfectly good, but not necessarily popular, items from storage.

Basically, it's a big garage sale, says Norris Shoes owner John Norris, who went to work for his dad at the store in 1964. People know that the Sidewalk Sale is as cheap as it gets. It's great for us, because it comes at the end of our summer sale and it's pretty obvious what's not selling. It's all good stuff, but sometimes we only get 25 cents on the dollar.

Phillip Cam, who owns Pacific Diamond Jewelers on the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, says it brings people for a peek at downtown.

It's an opportunity for them to make their money go further, Cam says.

Norris Shoes along with Hubbard Brothers Hardware and Lawrence's Jewelers are the old-timers in the Heart of Medford. Lawrence's recent makeover cost nearly a million dollars and disrupted the usual flow of business.

It's just about done, but we've still got a ton of reorganization to do, says co-owner Jerry Horton. We've participated in every sidewalk sale since my parents and uncle were here. We're just not as well-prepared as usual this year.

This is John Lucas' third year selling tie-dye wares in front of Schroeder's Furniture & Collectibles and Antiques. The shop has front and back entrances, so owner George Schroeder prefers staying inside while Lucas serves as his front man.

Lucas sells his rainbow-colored wares during the Pear Blossom and Rooster Crow festivals. He thinks a monthly event, similar to the Friday night downtown Grants Pass parties with music would attract more shoppers.

Cam seconds that notion and wouldn't mind seeing music across the street at Vogel Park.

Linda Outfleet of Molly Reed says she still looks forward to more customer parking that will increase foot traffic.

Jolene Hedstrom of Jolene's was happy to see more participants in her second year. She passed the word out several weeks in advance trying to drum up foot traffic for the event and she was pleased with the results.

I'd like to see a table out in front of every business, Hedstrom says. We need to do anything to get people's attention, because we are all in this together.

This was the first Sidewalk Sale for Casa Bellissimo, a lighting and home accessories store that opened nine months ago.

The challenge is letting people know we're here, says owner Bob Suess. Close to half of the people that have been in in the past three days haven't been downtown in a long time, or never have.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail