Madison Sidewalk Sale Dons Masks for an Extended Cut of Downtown Bargain-Hunting
The Madison Chamber of Commerce’s annual sidewalk sale is adapting to the pandemic with a new timeline, new guidelines, and extended opportunities for shoppers. This year’s event, appropriately branded as a “masked sidewalk sale,” runs Tuesday, July 21 through Sunday, July 26.
Most Madison shops have slowly moved toward a full reopening as they navigated a bevy of new restrictions and the realities of the coronavirus in daily life, according to Chamber Executive Director Eileen Banisch.
Now, though, Banisch said she has been able to work with all the shopowners to put together a safe version of the longtime tradition that includes the usual bargains along with extended hours and free masks available for anyone who needs them.
With the economic toll of the shutdown well documented, business owners are hoping for a big turnout next week that will hopefully kick-start a resurgence in locally focused shopping.
“They had to invest money...the restaurants even more so,” Banisch said. “They’ve been open, but business has been slow.”
Missy DeBeradinis, owner of The Country Shop, said the most important thing for her is to sell excess merchandise—something for which the sidewalk sale is always helpful, but “more than ever” this year.
With plans for a small, 10 square-foot tent along with sidewalk racks, DeBeradinis said that in some ways, this wasn’t going to be a super unusual iteration of the long-running tradition for her store, though obviously in other ways it was.
“We’ll make things as normal as possible, with taking a lot of precautions,” DeBeradinis said.
During the sale, the chamber will have its own table, which will provide masks at no charge to any potential shopper, Banish said.
Though a lot of stores, including The Country Shop, opened on or around May 20, the first day retail stores were allowed to under state guidelines, others did not. Banisch said that she understood there was “there was a lot of trepidation” as businesses navigated the new pandemic-centric world.
Expanding the sale by an extra two days—from Tuesday, July 21 all the way through Sunday, July 26 —is both a way to expand opportunities for businesses as well as prevent unsafe overcrowding, Banisch said.
“You’re a potential shopper, you are downtown [or] coming to town and you see that it looks too crowded—I think people are smart enough to stay away and wait until another time when maybe it’s not so crowded,” she said. “The onus is not just on us and the shopkeepers, but the shoppers as well.”
Most of the chamber’s regular summer events, including the antique show, a business expo, Beachcomber Night, and the chamber’s usual community dinner have all been pushed to the fall, according to Banisch.
The sidewalk sale was also pushed back from its originally scheduled time, Banish said, but only by about 10 days.
Though the chamber is unlikely to try to throw together any more events this summer, according to Banisch, the sidewalk sale will hopefully provide a low-key and safe way for both shoppers and business owners to begin navigating the new normal, which might include things like mask wearing and social distancing for the foreseeable future, but can also accommodate people who want to safely patronize their favorite small businesses.
“I think people will feel more comfortable coming out and enjoying themselves, and getting some bargains while they’re at it,” she said. “I think everybody has been complying and everybody has been behaving, so we’re feeling very positive about this.”