Archive for Tuesday, February 13, 2007

City to decide sidewalk sale flap

Downtown Lawrence asks shops to pay up or not participate

Jenene Marlow, Wamego, and her children shop the clothes racks at Maurice's, 739 Mass. St., during the annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.

Jenene Marlow, Wamego, and her children shop the clothes racks at Maurice's, 739 Mass. St., during the annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.

February 13, 2007


Sara Oliver figures she's already paid her dues.

That's why the owner of the downtown shop The Topiary Tree doesn't think she needs to pay another $380 a year in dues to the Downtown Lawrence Inc. organization to participate in the community's annual Downtown Lawrence Sidewalk Sale.

"When you pay $20,000 a year in taxes, I think we should be able to put a booth on our sidewalk once a year," Oliver said.

But leaders of Downtown Lawrence Inc. - the nonprofit trade group that organizes the sale - is asking city commissioners tonight to grant exclusive use of the Massachusetts Street sidewalk to DLI during the one-day sale, which is always on the third Thursday of July.

That would mean businesses that aren't members of DLI wouldn't be able to have an outdoor booth during the sale. Rick Marquez, executive director of DLI, said his members thought that was only fair because DLI spends nearly $5,000 per year to promote the event, plus numerous hours of staff time in organizing the sale.

"The sidewalk sale is an extremely successful day, in large part, because DLI really promotes it," Marquez said. "We think the cost of membership is extremely reasonable. If a business were to effectively market themselves on that day, they would spend much more than the membership fee."

Most downtown merchants that participate in the sidewalk sale do so through their DLI membership. Marquez said the organization has 113 members, with about 80 Massachusetts Street merchants. But DLI estimated that there have been about 10 businesses who set up booths in front of their Massachusetts Street stores who are not DLI members.

Under the current city regulations, that is allowable. For a $10 fee, a downtown business can apply for a permit to use a portion of the sidewalk in front of their store. Last year, three Massachusetts Street businesses - The Topiary Tree, Antique Bazaars II, and The Casbah - applied for and received the permits for the sidewalk sale.

Marquez said observations from last year's sale indicated seven other businesses who are not DLI members also had booths during the event but did not have a city permit. He declined to identify those businesses.

Mayor Mike Amyx, who owns a downtown barber shop, said he had some concerns about the issue.

"I do want to make sure that we promote the event because it is an important day in downtown," Amyx said. "But I have some concerns about excluding any shop owners."

City leaders consider proposal to prevent some businesses from participating in downtown sidewalk sale

Downtown Lawrence, Inc., wants to prevent downtown businesses that do not pay annual membership dues from placing merchandise along Mass. Street for the annual sale. Enlarge video

Dennis Oakley, an owner of Antique Bazaars II, said he didn't join the organization, in part, because he didn't think he could justify the $380 in dues to simply be part of the sidewalk sale. Several retailers said the sidewalk sale is more advantageous to some businesses than others, with apparel stores often being the biggest beneficiaries.

But Oakley said actions like this also discourage him from joining DLI.

"I think DLI is pretty heavy-handed in how it does business, and this is just another example of that," Oakley said, pointing to a 2004 letter from the organization that indicated businesses needed to become a member of DLI to participate in the sale, but did not mention that they could apply for the $10 sidewalk permit from the city.

"They don't represent Downtown Lawrence," Oakley said. "They just represent their downtown businesses."

The group, in addition to receiving membership dues, receives a substantial portion of its budget from city funds. In 2006, the city allocated $47,500 to Downtown Lawrence Inc.

Charlene Schlotzhauer - owner of Prairie Pond Studio & Bead Co. and a DLI board member - supports the change because it would help more evenly share the costs to organize and promote the sale.

"DLI is an organization that really has a good core group of people who are trying real hard to do positive things for downtown," Schlotzhauer said. "Now is the time for us to join together because we can do a lot of great things if we work together.

"And we're talking about a $380 fee for a sidewalk sale that they probably will make $5,000 to $10,000 off of. It more than pays for itself."

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 2 months ago

OK, consumer1, I'll bite. The only member of the city commission I saw referenced in this article is the mayor. In what way do you see Boog or any other councilpersons responsible for this request?

cutny 11 years, 2 months ago

consumer1...of course, you're always the informed voice of reason. FYI "Boog" and "highberger" are the same person. No "and" needed. P.S. you're free to leave Lawrence if you're so unhappy here.

KS 11 years, 2 months ago

DTL has carried this thing too far. Heavy handed and frankly they should have no control over who is in and who is out. The businesses are already paying DTL thru their taxes. Double payment. This is so silly of DTL.

momof4 11 years, 2 months ago

Just put a sign up saying to come in and enjoy the FREE air conditioning. They'll still do great sales.

Cindy Wallace 11 years, 2 months ago

How many of you that have posted checked out the City Hall Memorandum on DLI Request shown just below the article and above your posts. It is quite interesting that not only is DLI asking for "exclusive" rights during the sidewalk sale, but also asking for a variation to exclude the portion of the city code requiring DLI to get written consent from shops the are non-DLI members.

Read it, if you haven't really is quite fun! Just an added twist.....

cutny 11 years, 2 months ago

Hey Marquez, "effectively market themselves" = putting stuff on the sidewalk. The DLI has bled enough small business owners out of enough money for enough time.

Eric Neuteboom 11 years, 2 months ago

Is it me, or does anyone else consider the Sidewalk Sale an independent entity now? In otherwords, do we really need the stupid commission to "promote" it? Just tell me when it is...we'll show up. And to be perfectly honest, I've never actually considered the advertising/promotion to be creative, informative or useful. Stupid busybodies. Why doncha go organize a cow-turd throwing parade in Manhattan...

Gabe Hoffman 11 years, 2 months ago

We got kicked off the sidewalk last year beacuse my boss didn't pay. But it's a valid point that some retailers make more beacuse of what they sell, and if the city is giving almost $50,000, why the need to raise another almost $43,000 through membership fees. They must have bought a lot of channel six time with that. I wonder if the world company is somehow connected!

All we did was move it back into our little cove "in the shade" and they couldn't do anything about it.

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 2 months ago

I am one who specifically avoids downtown on the third Thursday of July. I've never found any "deal" that could possibly make the headache worthwhile. And if DLI is spending $5000 on promotion, I have a bridge they might be interested in...

Bladerunner 11 years, 2 months ago

Be careful Marion.

We now now the LJW will rat you out if served with a subpeona requesting your information. She could sue you for slander for calling her "weasley". You may be correct but still in trouble if you can't prove she is furry or has a tail.

del888 11 years, 2 months ago

If DLI has about 80 members on Mass. St, and they charge them $380 ea. to participate, that totals up to $30,400. Then you add in what the city gives them $47,500 - that now totals $77,900. Where is this money going? Even if they spent $5000 on advertising, that leaves a pretty big nest egg. I realize that not all of the 80 members on Mass. participate in the sale, but I still wonder - where's the money going? Hey city: please stop wasting tax money on individual businesses.

KansasKel 11 years, 2 months ago

QUOTE: "The sidewalk sale is an extremely successful day, in large part, because DLI really promotes it,"

Ummmm...I don't know exactly how long DLI has been around, but I remember sidewalk sales from when I was a kid (30 yrs ago). Funny, enough people knew about them then to continue having them, and I don't think I've ever met someone who has lived in Lawrence for very long that doesn't know about them!

I'd love to see the breakdown of how they "promote" it...and I'm with del888 - where's that $77,900 going?

Stephen 11 years, 2 months ago

I think the best course of action would be bringing in a consulting group and see what they think.

monkeywrench1969 11 years, 2 months ago

THis is a perfect example of why Lawrence is wallowing. They restrict businesses who do not want to join their club rather than allowing free trade for one day.

Why would any business want to come to Lawrence Downtown. It is clear from the number of business spaces for lease downtown some thing is wrong. And as far as Lawrence being so great for specialized shopping...I have been going to the Legends to spend my money because they do have more selection and recognize trends. Yesterday when I came to work...I talked to three other people who were there at the same time spending money proping up the "Dots" economy because they know what people want. We spent some decent money too and got more than what you could get here.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone ever wonder what the Chamber of Commerce does with the $120,000 or so the city dishes out to them? Lawrence still has thousands commuting back and forth to work so what's up?

They C of C also charge a membership fee and what exactly is the benefit of belonging to the Chamber?

All of this DLI stuff and sidewalk sale began way before Boog was a city commissioner. Commissioner Hack has been on the commission longer than anyone I believe and Commissioner Amyx is on his second round.

Duane Mellenbruch 11 years, 2 months ago

I am 41 years old and have lived in Lawrence my entire life. The sidewalk sale has been going on as long as I can remember, thus likely existed before DLI ever came to be. I have always known about when the sidewalk sale would happen each year and have not needed any marketing strategies to find out. I'm not sure why much, if any, money has to be spent on advertisement other than individual merchants choosing to do so. This has been a city and regional "happening" for so many years that there is always some kind of featured story on it in the Lawrence Journal World, anyway. While some may make thousands from this event, others probably do not. I think DLI is giving itself way too much credit for the success of this event. If merchants find it valuable to give money to DLI, then that's their choice. If others do not, that's their choice, too. As a parent, I hope to help my children get over the "fairness thing." I do see, however, that it is still difficult for many intelligent adults to get past. If you're paying the money to DLI and still reaping rewards from it, give yourself a pat on the back and keep up the good work.

Emily Hadley 11 years, 2 months ago

I recall hearing in past years that downtown businesses may NOT donate their sidewalk space to a non-profit or charity organization. They may only use it themselves (bearing the appropriate permits or membership) or not use it at all.

It seems that there is a lot of room for improvement to make this as successful for the Lawrence community as possible.

bevy 11 years, 2 months ago

Advertising? Who needs it! I can remember going to sidewalk sales when I was a kid, too (35+ years ago) back when we still had JC Penney downtown. Mom and Grandma were there for the white sales (That's sheets and towels to you young 'uns, not a racist thing).

Having spent the past ten years or so working in offices downtown, I regard the SS mostly as a pain in the keister. All the parking is gone by 7 a.m., you can't get lunch anywhere, and the streets are clogged with rude, stroller pushing Johnson Countians and rowdy teenagers. All so people can buy overpriced merchandise while trying to avoid heat stroke. So personally, I avoid it like the plague.

All that aside, I think it stinks that the city would let DLI dictate what business owners do outside their shops. If I owned a business downtown, my question would be - what do I get for the other $370.00 every year? (Since it's only 10 bucks for the city permit)

angstew 11 years, 2 months ago

To be fair, Rick Marquez is the new Director of DLI and was hired from out of town to come in and help change things for the better. Rick has been trying his hardest to make a positive change for downtown. He has done more for DLI than any director we've had in the last 5 years, although, I don't think he quite knew what kind of mess he was getting into, being an out of towner. He is not to blame.
The same problems we have are the same problems that we've had for years!! I will say, though, that this latest venture doesn't seem to be very smart. Being a downtown worker myself for 8 years, one thing has been clear about the DLI...they are very counterproductive!! Working together sounds great, but can't happen if the DLI is so exclusive. The DLI won't be able to accomplish anything if the merchants don't go to the meetings and voice their opinions! The last DLI meeting I went to was a bunch of old people complaining but not wanting to go out of their way to make a change or to accommodate anybody!
I love downtown, but I think that the DLI have a lot to learn, and from the sounds of it, people are not happy.

By the way, Marion, its DLI not DLT. Just to let you know. Bob Oderkirk is the president....I don't know of the "measly" woman who you are referring to, but there was a woman president years ago, but shes out of the picture now. If you are referring to Maria (owner of Southwest and More), who was the DLI director before Rick...then I agree with you!!! She did NOTHING for downtown AND GOT PAID!!!

Mike Blur 11 years, 2 months ago

The perched hawk is correct. There have been various permutations of the DLI, DLT or whatever it is for decades. I remember the "BID" (Business Improvement District) in the early 80s that tried to soak downtown businesses. The BID was an arm of the chamber, and a friend of mine showed me a letter back then from the chamber promising dire consequences if the BID fee was not paid. It sounded eerily like a protection racket...I even joked to my friend, "the chamber isn't planning a hit on you, are they?"

sourpuss 11 years, 2 months ago

This sounds like the same sort of thing that "befell" both Art in the Park and Independence Days (memories, anyone?) Some "group" steps in and takes over a previously fun activity, often because someone needs to make money off of other people's talents. I usually hit the sidewalk sale first thing in the AM, but often only spend around $20 total. The "sale" just doesn't seem as good as in previous years... seems to be just businesses putting their normally inflated stuff out on the sidewalk, with some tacky Christmas ornaments and damaged clothes marked down.

Art in the Park was great when I was a tyke - local craftsmen selling their creations at reasonable prices. Sure, there were always the expensive pieces, but almost everyone had little things to sell for a few cents. Independence Days was really fun, in terms of the activities, but moving the fireworks down there really ruined those... I preferred them at the stadium where there were no bugs and no big trees. I know, I know... thousands died, we had to move the display to the river.

Sigh Lawrence used to be fun. Now it is just for profit.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 2 months ago

"Does anyone think that Hack, Schauner, Amyx, Rundle, and Boog even know what is going on? "

The way the city commission is structured, they really aren't supposed to know much. They get next to nothing in salary, and with no staff at their disposal, all they can do is react to whatever the city manager and the movers and shakers bring before them.

"Or, are they letting Corliss take the heat and continue to make dumb decisions as he did when with Wildgen."

Wildgen was on the job for what, 17 years? I'd say Corliss will pull down at least $3 million in salary and benefits before the "heat" takes him out.

"How come Wildgen was so bad that now he gets a consulting job with some realtors."

He's getting paid for who he knows, not what he'll do.

Bob Forer 11 years, 2 months ago

DLI receives more than half of its annual budget from the city. So, assuming, arguendo, that DLI actually spends 5,000 advertising the event, less than half, or roughly $2,000 comes from dues paying memebers. Based on their membership of 113, each member contributes $17 to advertising. Such an small expediture does not justify excluding non-members from the event.

GrantRobertson 10 years, 9 months ago

DLI may spend a fortune on advertising for the event but I have never seen any of it. I just know about the event by word of mouth and that it is at a regular time every year. I think it is a bit much to require not only a fee to use the public sidewalk but membership in an organization which one may or may not believe in just to use that same sidewalk.

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