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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Backstreet Alliance trying to lure customers off Main St.

(Aug. 27, 2015) Early returns for the Berlin Backstreet Alliance, a promotion including several shops located outside of the central Main Street area, are mixed according to participating storeowners.
Inca Ruins co-owner Ken Briggs came up with the campaign, which also includes Berlin Coffee House, Bruder Hill, Bungalow Love, Nest, Pitts Street Antiques and Sea La Vie.
Flyers distributed at downtown shops promise “further offers from these fine establishments” after making a purchase in a participating store.
Briggs said, “no one has ever used” the promotion at Inca Ruins, located on 12 Pitts Street.
“Basically it was for the seven or eight stores that are off the beaten path, because no one ever comes down from Main Street – they’re scared or something,” he said. “But the idea was if they buy something at one store they get discounts in all the others, with the flyer.”
Overall, Briggs said business has been “better than we thought” this summer.
Bruder Hill Owner Shelly Bruder, however, was decidedly more bullish on the promotion.
“We love being part of the Berlin Backstreet Alliance here at Bruder Hill because it gets people off of Main Street and it helps all the little shops do better business and gets people to discover us,” she said.
Bruder said this year has been “the best year ever” at the store on 25 Commerce Street.
Devon Bostic, co-owner of Sea La Vie, located just off the north end of Main Street on 11 Artisans Way, agreed the summer shopping was “really good” overall.
“I think the alliance is helping,” she said. “We had a lot of people and flyers coming in. It definitely helps all the Backstreet stores overall.”
Hunter Smith, who owns and operates the boutique with her sister, said business was comparable to last year, when foot traffic in Berlin exploded because of the “Coolest Small Town” designation.
Bungalow Love recently relocated from Williams Street to 2 South Main Street, but owner Heather Layton said she still honors the flyers, offering 10 percent off discounts to customers who carry them.
Nest Owner Dee Gilbert said she often tries to direct customers to other stores all over Berlin, including those off Main Street.
“We try to encourage them to venture off, even though it’s just one block, to try the shops because there is so much to offer,” she said. “A lot of people I think are used to staying on Main Street, but if we give them a little hint that there’s some really good stuff, hopefully that pays off. We’re just trying to help each other out.”
Gilbert said it was occasionally tricky courting customers into her shop, located at the tail end of South Main Street.
“I’ll watch people stop at the intersection and kind of look down and shrug,” she said. “It’s still a little bit of a challenge, but it’s getting better.”
Jason Hagy at Berlin Coffee House said the Backstreet Alliance provided a little boost to the shop, on 17 Jefferson Street.
“It’s not as much as we had hoped,” he said. “When they first did it, we saw a bunch of the flyers, but it’s really slowed down since then.”
Peggy Hagy admitted it was difficult for some shops to attract customers when the only publicity they often receive is the A-frame signs that line portions of Main Street.
“Getting people off Main Street and down the side streets is really difficult,” she said. “A lot of little towns have light posts with drop-down signs, and I think that works a lot nicer than the A-frames. It’s my only advertising, but it’s also in the way a lot.”
Several years ago, Hagy said she ran a full-page ad in local papers touting “Off-street” shops.
“Sometimes I think that might help,” she said. “Or how about a big sign that says, ‘you are here – but look where you can go.”
Look for flyers for the Berlin Backstreet Alliance in participating stores.