BERLIN — This 2nd Friday Art Stroll will mark more than the inaugural May Day Play Day, it marks a coming out party of sorts for a small but enthusiastic contingency of the downtown merchants that promote themselves as the Off Main Street Shops.
While they are also part of the Main Street Merchants Association, these shop owners — including the Berlin Coffee House, Nest, the Coconut Bay Trading Company, Bruder Hill, Johns Premium Cigars, Jeffery Auxer Designs, Henry Fine Arts, Bungalow Love, and the Berlin Farm and Garden Store — have the particular challenge of not being on the main drag. As a result, they have an interest in promoting the Berlin experience beyond the many shops and eateries that initially present themselves to visitors.
In addition to running promotions and investing in sandwich signs the merchants there have for the last few months been making a concerted effort, not to distinguish themselves from their Main Street proper colleagues, but to more properly join them promoting the town’s economic well being beyond the first blush of a quick survey.
It is fitting then that the first May Day Play Day should also be the first street festival to feature the Off Main Street Shops. Featured band Honey Shine will perform their set in the shared parking lot of the Atlantic Hotel and the Berlin Coffee House rather than on Main Street.
While it would be wrong to call it a coup, the success the Off Main Street Shops have had in securing featured entertainment for one of their own could very well signal a step forward as Berlin attempts to expand it’s attraction to an increasingly diverse crowd.
As the Chamber of Commerce prepares to anchor the south end of the business district and the two Donaway properties continue to seek tenants, the notion of a single dimensional Berlin is something certain to fade into the background. What all the merchants, both on and off Main Street will benefit from is a town that can’t be taken in driving.