Old Town: Pushing for more open stores on weekend eves

       It's been tried before, but that doesn't mean it can't work this time.
       The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group is appealing once again to merchants to keep their doors open longer during summer evenings.
       Called the “Stay Open Late Campaign,” the request is for shopkeepers not to close until at least 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during July and August.
       The thinking is that open stores and spendthrift tourists are a match waiting to happen between about 6 and 8 p.m. weekend nights and, while there may not be hordes of late shoppers out now, if more stores were open there would be.
       “It's a chicken and egg thing.” OCCA President Charlie Irwin analogized. “If we can encourage more traffic, we can bring more people here.”
       Joe White, co-owner of the Crafty Cow (a leather shop in its first summer in Old Town), is one of those that's already staying open late. Addressing some of the same points Irwin did, he described the situation with the popular line from the “Field of Dreams” film: “If you build it, they will come.”
       He was speaking as much about Westside residents as he was about visitors to the region, he added.
       Mazie Baalman, co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, sent out e-mails this week to OCCA shopkeepers asking for commitments. By July 21, she'd gotten five yesses and one no. “It's a good start,” she said.
       Her store has always stayed open late - 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 on weekdays and 6 on Sundays. She believes it works, based on experience; also, she cited studies that show “three main shopping times each day - when you first open, in the mid-afternoon and in the evening.”
       What makes it hard in Old Colorado City, Irwin noted, is that many businesses are “mom-and-pop stores,” owned by one or two people, and by 5 or 6 p.m. they may feel they've already put in a long day.
       Another factor is that there tends to be a lull after 5 p.m. Baalman said. This is when tourists tend to be eating dinner. But often such people are dining in Old Colorado City restaurants. So there is the potential after 6 or 6:30 of new foot traffic emerging from the eateries onto Old Town's streets.
       “Many retail stores that have stayed open on a regular basis during the summer evening hours in the past have reported their best sales after 6 p.m.,” according to the e-mail Baalman sent out.
       Right now, White estimated, no more than 15 stores in historic Old Colorado City (between 24th and 27th streets) are regularly open late, and that's just not enough.
       Baalman hopes that with “stay open late” pledges from more and more businesses, she will be able to send out a press release telling one and all that a significant number of Old Colorado City stores have extended their evening hours… which will attract more shoppers, which will in turn convince more shops to stay open, which will then...

Westside Pioneer article