The Great Frederick Fair is just around the corner, which means businesses around the corner from the Frederick Fairgrounds are eagerly awaiting the increase in customers that accompanies the event.
Sept. 16 marks the start of the 154th annual event, but many business owners in the surrounding neighborhood say they start seeing the spike in traffic — and customers — the week before the fair opens to the public.
Business picks up at Brown’s Liquors and Deli the week before the fair, mostly from employees who are setting up the rides and booths, and making other preparations, according to owner Dawna Keyser.
“The places to eat aren’t open yet, so they all come here,” she explained.
Carnival employees also populate Belles’ Sports Bar & Grill before and during the fair, said Pam Belles, one of the owners of the East Patrick Street bar. Attendees of the fair’s evening concerts also tend to stop by for a post-show beverage or two, Belles said.
When asked if she thought the event was beneficial for her business, Belles responded without hesitation: “definitely.”
Keyser said there was really no downside for her business, apart from a bit of extra vehicle traffic on East Patrick Street.
There was one additional catch for the nearby sports bar. Belles said fairgoers will sometimes park in the Eastgate Shopping Center where her business is located, taking spots away from her customers. The business hires a company to keep tabs on the parking situation and tow any vehicles parked there that shouldn’t be.
The parking lot for Gathered Goods also gets a few stray fairgoers, according to Bobby Madert, owner of the East Patrick Street vintage and antiques store. He doesn’t see it as a problem, though.
In fact, for Madert, it’s just the opposite; anyone walking by his shop on the way to the fair means more exposure for his business, he said. He too notices more customers stopping in during the week of the fair, although, based on years past, that doesn’t necessarily translate to more sales, he said.
Still, he extends his closing time — from 6 p.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. — to cash in a bit more on the foot traffic surrounding his business. Car traffic counts too, he said.
“A lot of people pass by [during the fair] that just don’t come by here at all otherwise,” he said.
And a lot of those passers-by are parents with children, a target demographic for his business.
While an auto upholstery shop may seem an unlikely business to benefit from fair-related traffic, Joe’s Upholstery Shop does, although the increased business comes more from existing customers. Owner Don Jenkins explained that some of his customers will schedule work around when they go to the fair, dropping off their vehicles on their way in and picking them up as they leave.
He also lets customers without appointments park their cars in his parking lot if the fair parking lot is full, he said.
In Jenkins’ eyes, the event is a win-win for his business and himself.
“I enjoy the fair a lot,” he said. “I go every year.”
He named the “Old Fashion Day,” and specifically the antique car parade, as his favorite part of the event.
Madert, meanwhile, said he and his “buddies” usually plan a night to see the sights, including a stop at the carnival midway to play the games. Belles said her trip to the fair is scheduled for the carload special day: a $50 price for a carload of people to take in as many of the rides as they can.
Her daughter enjoys the rides more than she does, Belles said, but she likes the fair too.
As Jenkins said, “It’s a tradition.”