Chatham Merchants Claim Success With ‘Mondays On Main’

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Community events

Organizers of this year’s first-ever Mondays on Main say they’re bringing back the event next summer. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM Though it wasn’t without a few glitches, organizers say Mondays on Main, this summer’s first-ever weekly live downtown music event, was a success.

The event was sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association and featured between four and six bands performing at rotating venues. Association President Becky Voelkel said early plans are already underway for next year’s musical series.

“We went into it knowing that this would be a learning year,” Voelkel told selectmen Monday. “We have a very long Main Street, and we need to have more entertainment to help fill the street,” she said. Organizers hope to have between six and eight bands performing in next year’s Mondays on Main nights, she said.

Still, it appears that downtown Chatham was busier than usual on most Monday nights, according to anecdotal reports from merchants and from the number of cars parked at the Eldredge Garage lot on those nights.

“We had great crowds standing out in front of the store,” said Voelkel, who owns Mahi Gold at 465 Main St. The event happened on eight consecutive Mondays in July and August, and the size of the crowd each night varied, coinciding with the number of people who seemed to be in the downtown area during a given week, she said.

Voelkel said she hopes more downtown businesses will participate in the event, and there was a particular shortage of food vendors.

“We needed more on the street to attract families and to feed families,” she said. The merchants specifically opted against having food trucks or other outside vendors set up during Mondays on Main, hoping to steer patrons to established businesses instead. The merchants’ association will likely reach out to restaurants from other parts of town, or even those close to downtown, to encourage them to set up temporary locations along Main Street on Monday nights, Voelkel said.

Aside from a few parking violations, there were no specific problems reported by police on any of the nights, and there was no need for additional patrol staff, she added.

“They were very happy with how the event worked,” Voelkel said.

Jen Allard of the merchants association said she heard from some visitors that they had planned their visit to Chatham to coincide with Mondays on Main.

Selectman Shareen Davis said she attended one of the nights “and had a lot of fun, saw people dancing in the street.” The event seemed to draw a mixture of visitors and locals, organizers said. Davis asked whether the bands would continue to be located only on private property next year, or whether their venues might be expanded to include public spaces or church lawns.

“The goal is to get more people involved next year,” Allard said. Voelkel said the merchants may seek permission to erect a sign in the vicinity of the chamber of commerce information booth that would advertise the event throughout the week. Organizers also printed 2,000 event booklets which were available at the chamber booth and through summer rental agencies.

Another problem organizers identified were spots along Main Street where there wasn’t adequate outdoor lighting. The dark areas seemed to deter some visitors from seeing all of the acts, Voelkel noted. The merchants’ association will be looking for solutions to that problem, she added.

Selectmen Chairman Dean Nicastro asked about the demographics of the visitors each week.

“There’s a lot of families, and there’s a lot of 30-somethings and younger people,” many in the restaurants, Allard said.

The event doesn’t yet draw the kind of crowds typically seen at Port Summer Nights, a similar outdoor music event held on Wednesday evenings in Harwich Port, but Allard said there’s reason for optimism.

“In Harwich, nobody had shopping bags on Wednesday nights,” she said, while Mondays on Main visitors seemed to be in and out of the stores and restaurants.

“Did you find that the shopping continued on subsequent nights?” Nicastro asked.

Voelkel said there’s no hard information from merchants yet, but her store saw a slight downturn in evening sales in 2016 and 2017, and this summer seemed slightly busier.

“We’re looking forward to planning 2019,” she said.