Instead of losing a Saturday night to a road closure, the borough business district will celebrate its arts and crafts festival with an ‘after-party’ and activities that focus on local brick-and-mortar businesses.
By Matt Skoufalos | August 16, 2019
Every year, the Collingswood Crafts and Fine Arts Festival shuts down Haddon Avenue for two days in August, as vendors from throughout the country pitch their tents in the main thoroughfare of the borough downtown.
Business owners used to accept that the tradeoff for an uptick in foot traffic that weekend was a downturn in sales that Saturday evening, as the darkened streets were closed to vehicle traffic.
But for the past three years, Collingswood Partners, the borough business improvement district (BID) has found success with Market Night, an alternative schedule of pop-up events designed to draw in shoppers during the cooler evening hours.
“The goal was to drive that traffic into the evening,” said Collingswood Community Development Director Cass Duffey. “August can be a tough month for traditional retail; the alternative for the years prior had been just a closed street.”
Instead, the BID has invited its membership to program activities for visitors to “come up and enjoy that open space while we have it,” Duffey said, since there’s no other evening when Haddon Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic.
Fourteen local businesses will host sidewalk sales, and several restaurants in the borough downtown will offer dinner specials.
Great American Tightwire Walkers will perform fire-eating and tightrope feats.
Live performances by Christopher Davis Shannon and Coyote Jack are slated for the corner of Haddon and Irvin Avenues, and the Woodlawn Avenue parking lot will feature Disney’s The Lion King in a bring-your-own-chair “throwback movie night.”
In a testament to the success of the concept, Duffey pointed out that more than half the 140-plus craft vendors also have committed to stay open, which she said shows that they are seeing the value of Market Night as well.
At Bespoke Home + Life, owners Eric Hillegass and Patrick Bartscherer will feature “Jenga in the jungle,” with homemade wood blocks surrounded by live plants, and yard games in the store’s off-street driveway.
“We’re excited,” Bartscherer said. “We’ve gotten a new delivery of exciting plants, really large ficus varieties, just for the occasion.”
“Any time the town can come together like this, it’s great to be a part of it,” Hillegass said.
At Dig This, owner Reed Orem will be showing vintage shorts and cartoons on an impromptu sheet in the alley between his shop and his neighbor’s.
Orem said Market Night celebrates “try[ing] something different” to draw shoppers in.
“We used to close at 5 because it was dead as a doornail,” he said.
“The past few years, this event brought a lot of people who weren’t down here during the first part of the day.
“Now we do have an opportunity to highlight some of the brick-and-mortars on a day when the focus is on the middle of the street,” Orem said.
At Galerie Marie, Kimberly Camp will host the Third Annual Wild Woman Story Slam, with featured guests Elizabeth Perez-Luna of WHYY-FM, Rutgers University Community and Artists Programs Manager Carmen Pendleton, author Kate Hill-Cantrell, and Camp herself.
“This year, we’re telling love stories, but not the kind you think,” she said. “They’re not really romance tales, because love comes in all stripes. I’ll be reading an excerpt from Beloved by Toni Morrison.”
In prior years, Camp said the Market Night has brought an equal number of visitors to her store during the evening hours as arrived during the day. She expects the head count will be strong again this year.
“In August, it just starts getting cool in the evening,” she said. “Young people come out because they want something to do.”
Sara Villari said the event is a fun opportunity for businesses to offer creative programming.
Her shop, Occasionette, is sponsoring a kids’ art tent on Powell Lane in which children are invited to make their own tote bags.
She’s also offering a free tarot reading Saturday night to customers who purchase a Philly Tarot Deck, created by her neighbor, Collingswood artist James Boyle.
“Sometimes an event like this can feel really separated from the everyday,” Villari said. “I think it’s really nice that the town does something to involve the local businesses that are here all year.”
The Collingswood Market Night runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, August 17. For more information, visit the event page on Facebook.
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