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Changes planned for Thursday Night Out

June 03, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown city officials and merchants have agreed to make changes to the Thursday Night Out on the Town program.

The second Thursday of the month still will be set aside for dining, but without the live music and extended hours at retail stores downtown.

Instead, the evening will become a dinner-and-a-movie night. The Washington County Free Library will show movies, starting June 9 with the animated film "Racing Stripes" at 8:30 p.m.

Deborah Everhart, director of economic development for the city, said while the downtown restaurants benefited from the previous setup, retailers who extended business hours and offered in-store specials did not report higher sales.

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"The last one was not very successful for retailers, but it tends to be successful for the restaurants," she said.

The Thursday night events that included live music at Public Square, extended hours and specially priced merchandise at participating shops will be held during 1st Friday's Open Market Shopping Festivals. Those events begin tonight and will be from noon to 8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month through the fall.

Kathy Spellar, manager of Carol and Company on West Washington Street, said she experimented with extended hours to no avail.

"We try to stay open, but we don't get much business out of it," Spellar said. "If we get customers, it's normally just our regular customers who called and said they couldn't make it in by 5 p.m."

She said she is not sure moving the event to Fridays will make any difference, but she is willing to take part if she can find workers to keep the store open late.

Cheryl Kenney, owner of Roccoco restaurant on West Washington Street, said she thinks the downtown area is hindered by what she believes is an unjustified reputation.

"I think it's an extreme misconception about parking and what goes on downtown," she said. "It's not crime-laden, there's plenty of parking all around town. As a business owner, it's definitely frustrating that people perceive that."

Shana Ringer, owner of The Boutique LLC on North Potomac Street, said many of her customers did not shop during Thursday night events because they had other plans. She said she hopes moving the event to Fridays will be more convenient for residents.

"I hope so," she said. "I think we have a very nice downtown. It's getting there, but it doesn't happen overnight."

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