City merchants hang out wares for sidewalk shoppers Xxsxsxs sxsxsxsSidewalk sales lure shoppers

Last modified: Sunday, August 04, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Though storm clouds hung overhead early in the day, the Northampton Sidewalk Sales were bustling by Thursday afternoon.

Shoppers from around the Valley crowded the streets of downtown on the first day of the sales event. Many were excited about the variety of bargains, while others were happy to enjoy the festival-like vibe. And to the relief of both shoppers and merchants, the heat wave seemed to have let up.

Faces sales associate Goldie Red, of Holyoke, said she expected to see more people this weekend than at any time until Christmas. She added that she just started working at Faces a few days before, and that the Sidewalk Sales was a good way for her to get to know the community.

From Thursday through Sunday, 46 stores, restaurants and community organizations along Main and Pleasant streets are setting up tents as part of the annual event. Merchants said that while their tents were steadily busy from morning through mid-afternoon, they expect the crowds to grow over the weekend.

At the Deals & Steals tent, sales representative Entric Fluitt, who greeted passers-by with a friendly, “How are you doing today?” was careful to make sure customers were able to select the proper types of shoes from the overwhelming display of bargains.

Fluitt knelt down to show Remy Baskin, 10, how to tie the water shoes his mother, Sarah Buttenwieser, would be getting for him to use at camp. The water shoes were marked down to $15 from their original price of $25.

Baskin and his best friend, Gabriel Carter-Weidenfeld, also 10, both wore sunglasses from Harlow Luggage, which also had a tent on Main Street where the sunglasses were priced at two for $15.

Buttenwieser, who lives in Northampton and recently created the Facebook page “Only in Northampton” — currently at over 500 likes — said that only in Northampton would she see her whole world at sidewalk sales.

“I saw people I hadn’t seen in years and people I see all the time, just looking for their bargains,” Buttenwieser said.

Farther up Main Street, Left-Click had a table with sales on several accessories, including laptop cases and protective covers for iPads, as well as the biography of Steve Jobs. Left-Click staff Gaby Hernandez and Barry Benham collected raffle entries for a laptop and encouraged customers to pick up the store’s free mouse pads.

And although the weather was ideal for most Sidewalk Sales activities, gelato sales at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium might have benefited from a little more sun.

“I think the weather’s against us today,” said Amanda Parnell, of Easthampton, assistant manager of Ben & Bill’s. “It’s chilly.” However, she added, she expected to see more of a crowd later in the afternoon.

Turn It Up managers Chris Cooper and Roger Knight said that while Thursday is never as busy as the weekend, they had been steadily busy for most of the morning and afternoon. Although the sales event officially started at 10 a.m., Turn It Up had its tent out by 8. Owner Patrick Pezzati said his store tends to be the first to set up and the last to close up shop.

Eric Brumley of Feeding Hills took advantage of the store’s bargain of two used CDs for $10, having purchased the Black Sabbath albums “Volume 4” and the self-titled album “Black Sabbath,” which he noted are not available on iTunes.

“Spending money makes you feel good — sometimes,” he remarked, jokingly likening it to the high one experiences when exercising.

Brenda Thibault, of Southampton, said she was grateful for the deals on jewelry at Cedar Chest, where she said she was able to purchase several items as gifts for other people.

“Their gifts are original, but they’re normally too expensive,” she said. Thibault was there with her daughter Talula, 15, and their friend Annette Beaupre, who also brought her daughter, Natalie, 14.

“We’re having our girls day,” Annette Beaupre said.

Local nonprofits also gained exposure at the event. Safe Passage, a shelter and support organization for women and children who have experienced domestic violence, had a table set up at Sidewalk Sales for the first time this year.

Safe Passage volunteers Kara Auclair, who lives in Easthampton and is currently a student at Smith College, and Melanie Lund, who lives in Amherst and attends UMass, said they had several people ask for information, while others thanked them for the services the organization offers.

The Northampton Business Improvement District, or BID, has booked several acts of music and entertainment over the course of the sales event, including Karlsson Cross & Co. and Funk Dept, two “All Star” bands made up of members of popular funk groups based in the Valley. Karlsson Cross & Co. were booked to perform from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, and Funk Dept. will perform from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

There will also be the BID-sponsored Summer Concert Series event in Pulaski on Friday. The free concert will feature the local band Darlingside and Roosevelt Dime, of Brooklyn, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Florence’s Expandable Brass Band will return to perform from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, followed by Boy Wonder, of Philadelphia, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A new attraction this year is “Balloon Art by Kaileigh,” in which a local balloon artist will be making balloon creations at First Churches from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, which Lola Kelso, executive assistant and program director for the BID said she expects it to be a popular with the children.

On Sunday, there will be face and body painter at First Churches from noon to 5 p.m., and the Phyzical Comedy Circus Stroll will return this year, performing in various locations in the streets from noon to 2 p.m.


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