Economic success stories are hard to come by in today’s economy, especially in small town main street communities like Berryville. Yet, in spite of the tough times, the Downtown Yard Sale was a resounding economic success. Reactions from the crowds and downtown merchants was wholehearted approval for the event. Beautiful weather and tremendous vendor turnout created an environment that drew hundreds of people into downtown Berryville who were spending money in the local economy.
Town of Berryville Recorder, Jay Arnold spearheaded the effort to reinvent what turns out to be a forgotten tradition in Berryville. He described the genesis of today’s event saying,”In the 90s the Berryville/Clarke County Chamber did the downtown yard sale as a fund raiser. They had a spring yard sale and a fall yard sale, and then it transitioned into the Fall Festival of Leaves. We used my lot (Berryville Auto Parts), the firehouse and Broy’s lot and we rented table space, for $10 a space and the chamber got the money.”
The yard sales ceased altogether about ten years ago. However the downtown merchants have been working to revive the local economy and worked together to come up with a re-invented version of the downtown yard sale.
Jay Arnold, said he worked with Peggy White who owns Tastee Freeze, and Sherry Craig who owns Sweet Peas to come up with an approach that would draw people, not just downtown, but into downtown businesses.
“We wanted some way to get people in every business, so we didn’t charge anything for vendors to set up tables.” Tables were set up outside participating businesses and each business paid $30 and put up a twenty five dollar door prize. It was an idea that appealed to the downtown merchants.
“A yard sale doesn’t benefit every type of business so we hoped to get maybe twenty businesses to participate and we ended up getting fifty,” Jay Arnold said.
Huge crowds choked sidewalks and stymied traffic as drivers who were unaccustomed to dealing with so many pedestrians in the downtown area struggled to navigate through town. Jay said promotion was a key to the success. “We made posters, flyers to handout, and advertised the event in places where yard sale enthusiasts would see it.”
In addition to great deals on tables full of chachkis and what not, the event included over 40 door prizes. Tickets for door prizes were available in each participating store. Downtown visitors simply had to get their ticket from the store and drop it in the box for prize drawings. Winners did not need to be present to win but they would have to pick up the prize in the local business that provided the prize. “Our goal with every part of the event was to get people to visit downtown businesses,” Jay said.
Merchants were ecstatic about the increased foot traffic downtown. Glen Masters, proprietor of the Berryville News Stand, said he had done twice his typical Saturday business in half the time, adding “It’s incredible.”
Ellis Chapman of Blossman Gas told us, “We have had more in store traffic today than we’ve had in the last two weeks combined.” He also said that the walk in traffic had generated significant sales and leads.
Based on the success some theorized that this should be a monthly event, but Jay Arnold was quick to point out that it took a lot of work to pull off and added that, “If we held it too frequently it would loose it’s effect.”
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