AYER — Many Main Street shopowners continue to thrive in the down economy as Town Hall works to continuously keep up with the street’s appearance.
In unanimous agreement, several shop owners believe that the economy is to blame for any downward slump in sales over the past few years.
“I don’t think it has to do with the location, I think it has to do with the economy. People are waiting in between groomings longer. I mean, I have new people come in all of the time, so I can’t complain,” Cheryl Wilber, owner of Pampered Pet SPA, said.
Wilber has been at her location on Main Street for over four years and previously was located on West Main Street. “I love the location here. It isn’t the cheapest rent, but it is worth it to me,” she said.
Gloria Sliger, owner of Kelley’s Cards and Gifts for five years, blames the economy as well, but doesn’t seem to be seeing the same amount of traffic as many of the other shops.
“The economy has had a huge impact. People just don’t have jobs and you can’t expect them to spend money that they don’t have,” Sliger said.
Although the economy has had an impact, Town Hall has made several efforts to encourage foot traffic on Main Street including daily trash collection, flower plantings as well as many restoration projects.
David Maher, director of economic development, said the town prefers to restore buildings rather than build new ones. That preserves the town’s historic character, which enhances the amount of tourism.
“The town is very fair, they buy plants from me all of the time,” Laied “Stella” Harris, of Flowers by Stella, said.
Harris has been in business for 30 years, and admits that her business has been a little slow lately. She says the summer is usually slower anyway, except for weddings and funerals.
Many of the shops on Main Street are service shops with five of them hair salons or barbershops. According to Kellie Porter, owner of K Porter & Company, the businesses are thriving.
“I don’t even think of it as competing,” Porter said of working in the same block as several other salons. “I find that it has been busier in the past few years.” She attributes it to many new businesses in the area.
Catherine Coulter, owner of the former Bel Esprit now known as the Color Bar Salon, said she owes much of her foot traffic to their website and Facebook page. They did feel a little bit of a slump when J.P. O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub and Restaurant closed, she said.
The town is doing what it can to keep people coming in, she added.
“It would be nice if we could get something done collectively to raise promotions, like a block party,” Coulter said.
Since 2A is a state highway, blocking the road for a sidewalk sale or block party would not be possible, so “there is somewhat of a limitation in doing something like that,” Maher said.
Much of the draw to Main Street is the restaurants or bars located there.
“A successful town needs to have businesses busy both day and night, and I think that people who come here for, say the billiards at night, see what great services we have, and will then come during the day,” Maher said.
With only a couple of locations vacant on Main Street, including 12,000 square feet in the Fletcher building as well as the old J.P. O’Hanlon’s location, Main Street continues to bring in bustling traffic every day.
Aside from sidewalk clean up and building restoration, Ayer has also worked to create other attractions, which will bring more people into town overall.
“I’m trying to put in a site area for viewing for the trains and to integrate some small-scale tourist things,” Maher said. “They include working with the Historical Commission to come up with a mini town walk to see what the town used to look like before there was a fire.”
“(Town Hall) does a lot, and whatever they’re doing, they’re doing fine,” Porter said.