This weekend’s annual citywide yard sale could help boost town merchants who have suffered business losses from weeks of smoke, says a supporter of the event. Sale days are Friday through Sunday.
“There’s nobody in the restaurants. We need people to come out and eat here,” said Georgene Van Orsow, who heads the clothing section at the First Presbyterian Church yard sale. “I want to have an event for the whole town. I’m just concerned for my city.”
Business owners told Mayor Paul Becker tourist traffic this summer was down 30 percent, Becker said.
“There’s not much we can do to help those people in private business. We know they are all suffering,” said Becker.
Carefree Buffalo owner Jose Surges said foot traffic and visits by tourists were down markedly at his emporium, although a lot of locals were still shopping. Surges saw some folks stop only briefly during smoky days.
“Anyone just arriving in town said, ‘Wow, we are not going to stay. We are just going to keep moving on,’” said Surges. Cancellations of Britt Music and Arts Festival concerts rippled through lodging and restaurants, he said. He hasn’t calculated the drop for his business yet.
Bella Union owner Christian Hamilton estimated there were 20 percent fewer people in his restaurant this summer.
“I don’t ever remember having a summer like this that affected us this heavily,” said Hamilton. “It’s affected business essentially because it affected the Britt Festival.”
Magnolia Inn owner Robert Roos, who is president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, hasn’t run his own numbers yet but says they are likely not out of line with what others are reporting. He experienced a number of cancellations.
“A lot of these people that had concerns were not people traveling locally. Many were coming in with airline travel involved,” said Roos.
The annual yard sale began in the 1990s as a second Saturday of September event in which residents could hold sales without getting a permit from the city. The sale grew into a four-day extravaganza that attracted people and outside vendors from throughout the West during the first decade of the century.
In 2011, city officials imposed restrictions to deal with traffic and other problems, but the sale still attracts good crowds. Becker said he felt last year’s sale drew fewer people than previous ones. Roos said he thinks numbers have declined a little bit after regulations were put in.
Roos said probably 65 to 75 percent of his rooms for this weekend were booked during last year’s sale by regulars who return for the event.
A $10 daily business license is required by the city for vendors, but residents don’t pay the fee if they are selling personal possessions from their homes. Sales are limited to Friday through Sunday. Vendors cannot set up in public rights of way, but some vendors lease space from owners of private lots. Parking regulations are enforced throughout the weekend to ensure that emergency vehicles can get through.
“We’ve made changes over the last several years that seem to have gotten much better control,” said Police Chief David Towe. “The last several years have been pretty good with us putting up parking signs along Fifth Street and a little extra patrol.”
Nonprofit groups in town use the sale to benefit their organizations. Sales at the historic Presbyterian Church on California Street benefit its home building mission in Mexico, said Van Orsow. Besides clothes, there are a number of tools available this year from garages that were cleaned out, she added.
“We do know that there are a lot of people that come from out of town and do it with families,” said Van Orswo. “It’s a fun experience, even though it’s a lot of work.”
Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at firstname.lastname@example.org.