That's the ticket

Shepherdstown businesses benefit from theater festival

Shepherdstown businesses benefit from theater festival

July 18, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - With visions of tourists dancing in their heads, merchants in Shepherdstown look forward to a certain time of year, one that requires neither colored lights nor gifts.

James Cooper, owner of J Cooper Gallery, summed up the feelings of many.

"It's like Christmas in July for us," Cooper said of the Contemporary American Theater Festival, which has been held every summer for the past 14 years on the Shepherd University campus.

During the festival, the streets teem with people, many in town from the Washington, D.C., area.

"Just the town itself has come to life so much in the past week," Cooper said one recent afternoon as he sat on a step outside his shop. "Basically, it goes from nothing to wow."


Across German Street at The Village Finery, window displays are festival-inspired. Four separate displays each feature an enlarged copy of a playbill's cover, along with a summary of the play and an appropriate outfit.

Giving free advertising to the festival is only fair, shop owner Joan Kartley said.

"It has a great impact" on business, Kartley said.

Stepping inside the shop, with its inviting yellow tones, even offers a glimpse of the festival. Set designers for the festival, including Kartley's grandson, designed and built much of the shop's interior, transforming it from a computer-based business to a retail store.

As for Cooper's assertion of a holiday in July, Kartley took it a step further.

"It is better than Christmas," she said.

"We've always said we like this time of year better," added sales associate Wallie Lee, who stopped by the shop, her "second home," on her day off.

The Village Finery specializes in ladies' clothing, handbags, jewelry and shoes, and also offers some items for men.

Already, all of the shop's handmade jackets have been sold, mostly to festival patrons.

"We have very discriminating customers," Lee said. "They know quality when they see it."

Finding a booth or table at the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant on certain nights may prove difficult, thanks to the festival.

"They're actually so good for business that my phone just won't stop ringing," Laird Marshall, dining room manager, said as he put one caller on hold to speak with another.

About two weeks ago, all tables already were reserved for pre-show times Saturday night, Marshall said.

Many people not only take in a show, but make a day trip out of it as well, seeing area sites and shopping in local stores, Marshall said.

Along with hanging a large red CATF banner from the restaurant, the Yellow Brick Bank also hosts a party for the festival's cast and crew every year.

Seeing couples "decked out" in formal attire pleases Marshall, who said many customers come for dinner and then return after the show for a nightcap, dessert or to listen to live piano music Friday and Saturday nights.

Happenstance visitors to Shepherdstown's quiet streets certainly cannot miss the festival's presence. A large red banner hangs over German Street, while the one on the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant anchors the end of the retail district a block away.

Erected on the lawn of McMurran Hall is a sign informing people of the locations and times of each of the festival's four plays.

"Rounding Third," a laugh-out-loud look at two mismatched Little League coaches, seems to be the crowd favorite. Other offerings are the introspective "Flag Day," a sullen look at life in a post-9/11 America titled "Homeland Security," and the mystical "The Rose of Corazon: A Texas Songplay."

The festival ends Aug. 1.

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