‘Downtown is coming back to life’: Sidewalk Sales to make a comeback in Easthampton, Northampton

  • Avery Dupree, 13, of Buckland, left, helps her friend Holly Hicks, 12, of Shelburne Falls to try on sunglasses at the 25 Central tent during Northampton Sidewalk Sales in July 2017. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

  • Pamela Hammarlof of East Longmeadow browses a collection of Shop Therapy clothing during Northampton Sidewalk Sales in July 2017. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2021 7:58:50 PM

EASTHAMPTON — In what some see as a welcome change to downtown areas once muted by the pandemic, Sidewalk Sales are set to return to Easthampton and Northampton in the near future.

In Easthampton, Cottage Street merchants plan to hold their sales on May 15. Meanwhile, Northampton’s Sidewalk Sales will kick off in late July, though coordinators aren’t sure exactly what they’ll look like yet.

 Cottage Street business owners hosted their first and only sidewalk sale in May 2019 and attracted a good turnout, said Beth McElhiney, owner of Wonderland vintage and home decor store and founder of the Cottage Street Merchant’s Association. Despite this early success, the event was put on hold the following year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There wasn’t any opportunity to do anything last year, so we’re going to try making up for it now,” McElhiney said.

The sales are part of a larger trend in downtown Easthampton, where many businesses and arts organizations are ramping up their presence again after a quiet year. Last weekend, over 20 local artists with Easthampton Clay hosted an outdoor pottery sale by Nashawannuck Pond; businesses can apply to set up outdoor dining in parking spaces; and Easthampton City Arts launched a “Spot Lot” performance series, which will coincide with the Sidewalk Sales later this month.

“People are starting to come out of their houses again,” McElhiney said.

“It’s just getting people back out and into stores again, feeling safe,” she added, “and because it’s outside, it should be easy for people to feel safe. It’s just exciting for us to start seeing our customers again.”

The event is scaled-down from the larger, long-established Sidewalk Sales that usually take place in Northampton each summer. Around 10 to 12 merchants planned to participate as of late last week, but McElhiney said more may join as the event draws closer. Participating vendors include Easthampton Crystal and Mineral, Wedge Works, TSVGA Perfvms, Wonderland, Sonnet & Sparrow and Olivia Pearl Interiors, among others.

Northampton

Later this year, downtown merchants in Northampton also plan to make a comeback at their own Sidewalk Sales, which are usually a fixture around Main Street each summer.

Amy Cahillane, executive director of the Downtown Northampton Association (DNA), said that the organization will “definitely” hold the Sidewalk Sales.

“What I don’t know — and what I think is going to be one of those things we won’t be totally certain about until it’s close to the event — is what it’s going to look like, given COVID restrictions or lack thereof,” Cahillane said.

DNA has three tentative plans in place: One that would look “very similar” to previous Sidewalk Sales, with measures such as plexiglass and hand sanitizer added; another model where vendors are spaced out in front of every other storefront; and a “backup plan” that would relocate the sales to a new location where more distancing is possible, which Cahillane said would be modeled after the success of the Tuesday Farmers’ Market.

The sales are slated to take place July 29 through Aug. 1.

Plans for the event are just getting underway following conversations with local business owners, who Cahillane said were eager to have the sales back. Around 40 to 50 businesses and organizations usually participate in the annual sales.

“I think there’s this collective feeling that downtown is coming back to life,” Cahillane said.

And while the sales provide a financial boost to businesses, this year, Cahillane thinks that this emotional impact of the event’s return is even more prominent.

“It’s been a year-plus of none of our usual downtown, community-wide events,” Cahillane said, “and many still aren’t happening … so I think just the emotional lift that it will be to see an event come back would be great.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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