Artz and Groove festival’s financial impact to nearby businesses was minimal

Mt. Airy merchants along Germantown Avenue saw more foot traffic this past weekend but it didn’t translate into higher sales for most of those NewsWorks spoke to.

Though it appeared as if Golden Crust Pizza had a steady stream of customers during the weekend, owner Jimmy Zergani said his pizzeria fared worse than expected. The Mt. Airy Artz and Groove “didn’t do nothing for us,” he contended, because it was not held on Germantown Avenue like October Gallery’s International Art Expo had been.

Darrell Cleveland of Doc C Custom Clothier noted that on a typical Saturday afternoon in Mt. Airy the 7100-block of Germantown Avenue is a dead zone. This past Saturday, though, things were markedly improved for the tailor. Cleveland said he saw several folks come into his store to check out his wares – an influx he attributed entirely to the Mt. Airy Artz and Groove. Immediate sales, however, did not improve.

Artz and Groove was held behind 7165 Lounge

One of the 2011 Art Expo’s vocal opponents was local florist Herb Rothe, who this year was pleased to see October Gallery’s newest event take place off the commercial corridor. He said the community lot behind his store, Rothe Florists, had ample parking during the entire weekend and his business suffered none of the negative effects of a street closure. The florist also did not rake in any extra profits. Rothe said his shop had a normal Saturday, “pretty much what I figured it would be.”

“The only way it works is if its a festival on the Avenue, but it’s got to be the right type of festival,” Rothe asserted. Rothe, in an earlier interview, had called the Art Expo exhibitions “mass produced garbage” and stated that October Gallery’s festival “was not what Mt. Airy’s about.” In contrast, he says that last year’s Night Market brought between 50 and 60 people to his flower business. That foot traffic also did not equate to increased revenue.

The Mt. Airy Artz and Groove festival showcased music and featured about 40 vendors, so not every business in Mt. Airy’s commercial district is going to see a bump in sales. Vendors Boutique was the only near-neighbor retailer to have a booth at the festival, though an invitation had been publicly extended to all.

Higher foot traffic helped some businesses

The weekend-long event turned out to be quite beneficial for Come and See Productions, which will be presenting live theater this summer at the Sedgwick Theater. The theatrical company moved into Mt. Airy on Saturday. “The timing was perfect!” stated manager Giselle Randleman, who was passing out promotional fliers all weekend.

Infusion Cafe owner, Jane Shapiro, was busier than usual even though the festival was hidden from the main commercial corridor. “You wouldn’t notice that there is a festival,” just by looking at Germantown Avenue over the weekend, she said. Shapiro says her experience with the event was a good one. “We did very well,” she commented.

Better experience than the Art Expo

For Food for All’s Amy Kunkle said her experience was similar to that of the pizza shop and clothing store, more traffic but not more sales. She was glad that the Mt. Airy Artz and Groove festival was held behind the Sedgwick Theater and not right on Germantown Avenue. Kunkle and some other area businesses were not happy when Mercer Redcross closed down the Avenue for two and half days last fall for a similar art festival.

October Gallery founder, Mercer Redcross, took a lot of heat from local merchants and community leaders for closing the street down last autumn for the gallery’s 2011 International Art Expo. In response, he went out of his way to reach out to local neighborhood organizations to describe what this year’s Mt. Airy Artz and Groove festival would look like. He moved this weekend’s event to a large parking lot behind the east 7100 block of Germantown Avenue in order to avoid many of the concerns which arose last time. Redcross has said he is planning to bring back the Art Expo to Mt. Airy later this year.

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