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Getting down to business next to the big dig

Businesses have signs up and down Winslow Way that state they are open during construction. - Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo
Businesses have signs up and down Winslow Way that state they are open during construction.
— image credit: Dennis Anstine/Staff Photo

Behind the dirt and roaring engines the message is loud and clear: “We are open.”

But the sign is only visible if shoppers make their way down to Winslow Way, despite the construction.

“Well it has been a challenge, that’s for sure,” said Janis Segress, head buyer for Eagle Harbor Book Co. “What we are interested in is working together to keep merchants alive and keep sales going throughout the big dig.”

Now in the third week of construction, Winslow Way is ripped up and construction rigs are an intimidating shopping buddy for those trying to skirt around the piles of dirt. But business owners are hoping a good deal and a creative idea will keep the main hub of island business from going dry.

Segress says momentum is building on the street as businesses are anxious to get signs up and generate enthusiasm on the street despite the conditions outside.

“We are working on some incentive plans with our customers and getting the word out through e-newsletters and openly talking to people on the street,” said Segress.

Stephanie Jackson, owner of Blinx Clothing, understands the lack of enthusiasm to head down to Winslow Way, so she is bringing her shop to the shoppers.

“I pack up my car with a tasting of my store, and set-up in someone’s home like a little boutique and we just have fun sipping wine, nibbling on food and making it special,” said Jackson. “Doing this has got me through the tough economy and some real challenging times. Plus I get out of my four walls and find some variety and energy.”

Jackson said she understands that shopping means something much different today then it did 20 years ago. By adapting to customers needs her business has survived the ups and downs over the years.

At Churchmouse Yarns & Tea owners Kit Hutchins and John Koval created a customer card for any customer who stops by the shop. Regardless if a customer buys something, they can get a stamp on their card just for coming in the store and saying hello. Once they reach 10 visits they get a "wee" gift, and are entered into a drawing in July for five $100 gift certificates.

"Island visitors so far have said they had no problems getting to our shop from the ferry," said Koval. "The construction crews seem to be doing their best to keep traffic moving and sidewalks open and loyal local customers are coming in more often to show their support."

Koval said he appreciates the open lines of communication and City Council support - he said he sees Councilor Barry Peters and his wife Channy quite often, since they vowed to buy something everyday in Winslow.

Numerous businesses are offering better prices to boost foot traffic like Winslow business My Kids Cookies is offering a free cookie with every coffee purchase during construction and Isla Bonita if offering cheap lunch specials on their menu.

Other businesses are focusing on new ventures and communication to get the word out. The Traveler is now offering language classes in beginning and intermediate Italian, Spanish and French and is focusing on their online presence through their website and social media platforms.

Sarah Wen, who was selected by the city to run the communication plan, said things are moving quick after the council placed the communication plan on a two-week hiatus.

"We are working on a number of unusual an exciting ideas," said Wen.

Wen said signs will be popping up, events, promotions and more frequent blog posts on the communication website. In May there will be a passport program where customers can receive stamps when they make a $10 purchase at participating stores to be entered into a grand prize drawing held around July 4.

Fore more information about downtown merchants, construction information and events visit www.winslowstreetsmarts.com or the city’s website.

Community Events, April 2014

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