The annual sidewalk sale got off to a bold start Thursday.
Music pulsated from a tent set up by Scarsdale Equinox fitness club, the aroma of burgers, fries and Italian specialties wafted from two food trucks. Cars were circling for parking spaces and plenty of people turned out to soak up the excitement while hunting for bargains at local businesses.
It was the busiest we’ve seen the village center in quite some time. We hope the excitement continues today and especially on Saturday with interactive family fun — face painting and temporary tattoo stations, and a concert by Songs for Seeds — planned in a trendy new approach known as retailtainment.
The sidewalk sale is beloved by many, as the comments on this page reflect. The Scarsdale Business Alliance (SBA) deserves a lot of credit for breathing new life into the event.
The Scarsdale Chamber of Commerce used to run the event, but the chamber has been defunct for a couple of years. With the departure of its leadership and waning interest from its board, the chamber ceased to operate. In the interim, a team from The Acceleration Project worked on a pro bono basis with stakeholders to share best practices. TAP co-founder Jane Veron said the team gathered data from a wide variety of chambers and business development entities and provided a roadmap for how to revitalize Scarsdale. In the spring of 2018, a group of merchant leaders coalesced and founded the SBA with a mission to “bring vitality back to the local economy,” Veron said.
The SBA has come together not only to reinvent the sidewalk sale, but also to create new events, such as the wellness fair that drew more than 600 people to the town center in May and the “Scarchella” music festival which is planned for September. Both of these recent innovations are products of a collaboration between the village and the SBA.
SBA co-president Marcy Berman-Goldstein said last year’s sidewalk sale was a challenge for the fledgling group to pull together. They had never done it before and they had a lot to learn about village codes and insurance. In just six months, they managed to sign up several outside vendors to join Scarsdale’s stores for the three-day summer sale.
Since then, SBA membership has grown to include not only brick-and-mortar store owners, but also a handful of local home-based businesses — you can meet some of them at this year’s sidewalk sale — and, according to Berman-Goldstein, the SBA will continue to expand participation in the group and its events for businesses from outside of the area if they serve a significant number of Scarsdale residents.
The new meet and greet events hosted by the SBA are a great idea. The one held in June drew 150 people including local legislators. Business groups need this type of working relationship with officials in order to get things done and will make it easier to affect change. The meet and greets not only give SBA business owners and employees a chance to network with each other, but because they are open to the community as well, they could help raise awareness and create goodwill among residents and their local merchants.
For many residents, the sidewalk sale was exciting. They saw people they don’t see as much as they used to. They felt the town come alive. We would like to see that happen more often. Why not create themed events or experiences that people won’t want to miss? Every business in town could work together to offer a special promotion or offer exhibits and entertainment that make people want to come to the village. Having some recurring events could build up a “Let’s go into the village” mindset.
New and old businesses sharing ideas, collaborating and finding camaraderie with each other and with their clientele is essential for getting the downtown back on track. We hope to see innovation and excitement become the norm, rather than the exception.