Letters to the Editor

Downtown hours

May 12, 2009


To the editor:

I’m frustrated with downtown retail businesses. Downtown merchants constantly complain about chain and big box stores stealing their business. Yet, numerous times, my wife and I finish a dinner downtown at 8:00 on a beautiful spring night, want to walk around and maybe shop, and find (only a few) chain stores open. These cool evenings bring masses of families and couples downtown to eat, people watch, and would like to shop, but find four out of five stores closed.

If downtown wants to keep thriving, the downtown independent merchants need to jointly stay open later in the spring and summer seasons to capture some of the potential shoppers that are already enjoying downtown’s wonderful food. If only a few downtown stores stay open later and the majority close early, people will still receive the impression that any evening shopping needs to be done along south Iowa Street, and that won’t help downtown.


Chris Ogle 8 years, 6 months ago

What??? Stay open later???? Next, you will want those poor Dowtown merchants to pay for our parking.. Get real.... This is Lawrence Kansas

Janet Cinelli 8 years, 6 months ago

I agree with the writer. I have often thought of starting a business in DT. If I do, late hours will definitely be a strategic move to sell more.

repaste 8 years, 6 months ago

Don't know how many downtown Biz owners you know, but "liberal elite arrogance" does not describe many that I know. It might be a little of the fat, consume everything, all the time, I want it now attitude that is involved.

D_Puddy 8 years, 6 months ago

I agree with the writer. My wife and I love to visit Lawrence as much as possible (from KC). We crave so many of the restaurants that we used to frequent in college, but with no shops open on Mass during the evening it makes the trip much less worth our while.

Brenda Brown 8 years, 6 months ago

This comes up every once in awhile. I have worked in several downtown businesses in the last 24 years and I would like to clear up some ideas that the business owners refuse to open later in the evenings. These people who own businesses downtown are BUSINESS people, if it was profitable to open in the evenings, trust me they would. Most store are open until 8:00 on Thursdays, but most are empty. I have worked in several stores that tried late summer hours only to find bored employees who are still being paid even though no cash is coming in. Chain stores are required to stay open because of the corporate model. I want everyone in Lawrence to enjoy downtown and all that it has to offer. If more people would shop on Thursday evenings then it might prompt the owners to consider later hours. As it is, there is just not enough incentive to do so.

maxcrabb 8 years, 6 months ago

A letter to the editor on downtown shop hours, and it only takes 3 posts to get political! Congratulations for completely hijacking this threads purpose!

appleaday 8 years, 6 months ago

I know some business owners downtown and they would love to stay open but most of them barely made rent, utilities and payroll as it was and couldn't afford to pay someone to sit in a store that would likely be empty or have no sales. Walmart saves money by buying cheaply made stuff manufactured overseas.

D_Puddy 8 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the info on Thursday evenings Bren. Good call.

jonas_opines 8 years, 6 months ago

"Don't know how many downtown Biz owners you know, but “liberal elite arrogance” does not describe many that I know."

You missed the key word "I believe." That means he doesn't actually "know" anything, he just "believes" that it has something to do with evil liberals. That is one of his primary Articles of Faith, probably the the most important Affirmation of them all. "All problems are caused by liberals."

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 6 months ago

So repaste, there's something wrong with wanting what you want now.

Brenda Brown 8 years, 6 months ago

D_Puddy (Anonymous) says…

Thanks for the info on Thursday evenings Bren. Good call.

D_Puddy- You're welcome....most of us are open on Sunday afternoons as well.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

Yes I have thought about this matter more than once.

How about this? Why not consider hours such as 11:00 AM until 8:30? 11:30 AM perhaps?

Frankly Lawrence is barely waking up at 10 AM so why open before 11 AM?

If someone wants earlier hours Weavers opens at 9:30 AM and has a very nice housewares department downstairs.

Sunflower Bike and Outdoor has some creative shopping hours which keeps them open a bit later than some.

bastet 8 years, 6 months ago

Bren has it right. Remember that store owners have to pay their employees to sit in empty shops at night or they must do themselves--in some cases after having been in the shop all day. It isn't arrogance or snootiness; it's simple math and reality: a store with only five or six part-time employees and an owner can't cover the kind of hours that a chain retail store with an army of part-timers can. If you want to enjoy the downtown shops at night, try making Thursday nights a "destination downtown" night. Many places are open until at least 8. Many business are also keeping late Friday hours. If you want to shop there, stop complaining and pay attention to the hours your favorite store is open. There are benefits to shopping in the small business--friendly and knowledgeable staff, unusual merchandise, support for local business owners--but you have to realize the realities of store hours.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 6 months ago

I only go though downtown on the way to Borders. But, on those occasions, my daughter driving me, I have noticed the diversity of people on the sidewalks. You have young families with small children, older couples, young adults. So, you have different ages, color and dress. I also like the the little outdoor seating areas. I am told that after a certain time the downtown becomes somewhat more homogeneous.

jonas_opines 8 years, 6 months ago

"Sorry, I calls 'em likes I sees 'em."

Yes, that's the problem. You should call them as other people see them, because your own perception is so warped by real or fake bias as to be almost backwards.

"Why do liberals lambast me when I try to help them to understand the truth, facts and how the real world works?"

Probably the same reason an electrician would lambast a customer for explaining that their lights didn't work because of evil electric sprites. An understanding of truth, facts, and how the real world works isn't one of your demonstrated skill sets.

Raider 8 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps not everyone wants to be forced to shop on a certain night (Thursday)? Perhaps people have lives on the weekends? Perhaps not everyone who shops is off during the day and can get downtown by 5pm?

There are people who like to go and shop during the week, after work. There are people who work out of town and can't just pop down to Mass St on their lunch break, or be there before 5pm.

These are things that DT retailers need to take into account.

Perhaps try a MWF late hour type experiment. Give people choices, rather than forcing something that doesn't work.

KansasPerson 8 years, 6 months ago

Oh merrill, I WISH I didn't have to wake up until 10 a.m.! :)

I read somewhere that the "open late on Thursdays" (not just in Lawrence, but lots of other places) dates back to the days when it was traditionally "Cook's night off." Interesting if true!

justthefacts 8 years, 6 months ago

Bottom line (and it was said before) IF THERE WAS ENOUGH MONEY TO BE MADE, THE OWNERS OF STORES WOULD STAY OPEN 24/7. They don't close their doors to lots of paying customers because it does not pay to do so! But they aren't going to stay open 3 extra hours to make $20 more. That doesn't make sense.

There have been many attempts to figure out what hours bring in the most customers. Experiments have shown that after a certain time, business slows down to a point it doesn't pay to stay open. When an owner knows they will at least break even, they will stay open. No matter what time that might be. But if the percentage of income is exceeded by the cost of staying open (paying help, lights, etc.) they won't do it for long.

Maybe the answer is to have a different feel to Mass street on weekends (when most people want to walk around and stay out late). Block off Mass street from all (but police) car traffic (I KNOW that means finding other places to park....) and (a) Let it be known that many/most businesses will be open till 10 PM (or later) and (b) allow citizens to walk around with their adult beverages, outside - much like New Orleans and other tourist spots. Nothing like a little alchohol to fuel spending more freely.

kmat 8 years, 6 months ago

Our downtown rocks compared to most smaller, older towns.

I was recently in Charlottesville, VA (Univ. of Virginia). I had heard so many things about their downtown. Went down there the first night in town to try to see some local music and have a few drinks. Their downtown wasn't even half the size of ours, was almost exclusively snooty, super high end shops (seriously, so high priced made Lawrence shops look dirt cheap), had no night life, just a handful of restaurants and only one bar was busy (there were very few bars). Only the one busy bar was going to have live music, but not even starting until after 11:00. Until then, it was silent downtown. We were shocked and very happy that Lawrence had such a great downtown.

One thing I will give downtown Charlottesville - they have closed off Main St. to pedestians only. I wish we'd do that to Mass St.

jonas_opines 8 years, 6 months ago

logicsound04 (Anonymous) says…

"I think we can add a new word to Pelosi Boy's vocabulary.

Arrogance: the act of a business owner closing his/her store at a specific time based predominantly on the need to continue turning a profit."

There's nothing in there to make it a right-thinker post. Here, let me help.

Liberal Arrogance: the act of a business owner closing his/her store at a specific time based predominantly on the need to continue turning a profit.

See, now it's a right-thinker post. No one could tell the difference.

1moreopinion 8 years, 6 months ago

Bren says...I want everyone in Lawrence to enjoy downtown and all that it has to offer.

What does it have to offer? Our downtown is nothing but a drinking/drunk tank filled with bars. Hold on, before you get all upset with me. I do shop downtown sometime, but the fact is that many people can't afford to shop there. The prices are outrageous. I went to last years sidewalk "sale". I needed a pair of tennis shoes. I found a pair but even at the sale/clearance price, the shoes were $90.00. I went somewhere else away from downtown and found the same shoes for $60.00 and a second pair was 50% off.

I do understand why the prices are so high. It is so expensive to rent space downtown. Most of you know that the rich only want to get richer. So what, if the retail merchant closes shop, someone else with a dream of owning a business downtown will fill the vacant space.

I do think longer store hours would benefit us. It would be difficult for businesses to justify extending their hours though. I will continue to buy locally and downtown when I can afford to do so. I do think downtown should be more family oriented.

Corey Williams 8 years, 6 months ago

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says… "Why do liberals lambast me when I try to help them to understand the truth, facts and how the real world works?"

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says… "I think Todd Palin is pretty hot."

Corey Williams 8 years, 6 months ago

Bren (Anonymous) says…

"Chain stores are required to stay open because of the corporate model."

Pilgrim2 (Anonymous) says… "Which is how downtown Lawrence should behave if it wants to compete."

Wal Mart can afford to stay open 24/7 because they only add one or two more people to handle customers while the shelves are being restocked. And while Target and most of the other chain stores don't even stay open past nine or ten, the main way they can do that is the driving force of their corporations. If Sunflower had 1000 bike stores nationwide and the profit margins of Wal Mart, having them stay open 24 hours a day wouldn't be a problem.

Why not just go down on the weekends? Why not eat dinner and expect to go shopping before? Why not eating dinner earlier in the evening? Why should the stores spend more money staying open later for the small handful of shoppers that would show up?

das 8 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Pilgrim2...

Like all new businesses even...you make an investment (time, capital, labor, whatever) and may even lose money in order to eventually become (hopefully) profitable. An existing business significantly changing its hours can be very much like a new start-up in this respect. Someone has to make the leap first and its unrealistic to think (or demand that) it will be the consumers.

kmat 8 years, 6 months ago

Something for everyone to try to understand - downtown Lawrence is not a strip mall. Most of the stores down there can't afford to stay open late. Most of the stores still wouldn't have enough customers if everyone realized they are staying open late because they are specialty stores.

I love how everyone is me, me, me. For my convenience, you have to stay open late, even though I may just want to browse after eating dinner. You are so used to being catered to by big box stores that you've forgotten how little stores operate. Comments about how they may lose money to stay open late to hopefully turn a profit is assinine. You're telling these businesses, which are doing ok with the hours they keep, to possibly risk going out of business so you can have the option to browse in the evenings. What a greedy world.

I love to eat dinner and then window shop. Try it, it's quite nice. If I see something I want to buy, I go back on the weekend.

Really, you people need to be happy we have such a vibrant downtown. Go visit other small towns and see what they offer. Downtown Ottawa comes to mind. Ha ha.

Practicality 8 years, 6 months ago

You can't have drunks running around from bar to bar and families out clothes shopping together. That is why the shoppers aren't out looking to purchase goods in DT at night. Who is going to bring their family out to Downtown after 8:00 to purchase some baseball cleats? If the business owners think they are doing fine as it is, so be it. I personally don't see it lasting. The hours are not conducive to people who work. It is usually much more convenient to just go somewhere else.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 6 months ago

"But they aren't going to stay open 3 extra hours to make $20 more. That doesn't make sense."

It also doesn't make sense for me ( joe taxpayer) to pay for parking, trees, snow removal, and lighting for downtown...... If I want to get drunk.... I will stay at home.... Pay your own bills, downtown merchants, that's what the rest of do!

deskboy04 8 years, 6 months ago

I don't believe that the stores would be empty in the evening if they open. Wal Mart is open in the evening and people shop there. But it is their choice...unless I take off work during the day, I am forced to shop at Wal Mart.

seriouscat 8 years, 6 months ago

I have to agree to a certain extent. On Christmas eve last year I went to shop at the Toy Store and was shocked when I arrived at almost 10 am and they weren't even open yet!

Extended hours during the holiday shopping season seems like a no-brainer to me. I stayed and waited the ten minutes, but two other people just left. Bye bye business this year, and the next and the next.

These businesses have a lot of opportunities of which they are apparently oblivious.

gccs14r 8 years, 6 months ago

I've read story after story of fledgling small business owners working 14-hour days, seven days a week for years on end to be successful. Operating 9 to 5 Monday through Friday with a staff of students is not the way to success, especially with downtown rent being as high as it is.

TacoBob 8 years, 6 months ago

So it costs money to stay open late and pay staff to man the store, with potentially low traffic.

If I were a store owner concerned about overhead, I would park my butt behind the sales counter after hours, send the staff home, and serve my customers. Demand is there or it isn't, but I would be darn sure I captured every sale I could.

You got a buck? I want it. Better to have it in my pocket than for it to never be spent, or given to some other mechant, be it a bar or otherwise.

TacoBob 8 years, 6 months ago

Beo, out of the blue, you slam Christians.

It's all about the timing. Wait for it.......

You obviously have an axe to grind, and we know what it is.

Corey Williams 8 years, 6 months ago

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says… "Are you making fun of me that I may possibly be a homosexual? I thought this was strictly forbidden and not in stride with the left's political correctness and commitment to diversity and inclusiveness."

No Tom, I'm glad you finally came out of the closet. It's something I've always suspected from your posts, but it's nice that you've come out to the world and finally embraced your sexuality.

Kookamooka 8 years, 6 months ago

It's all linked to rent. Stores can't stay open if they have to pay an employee to run the shop BUT!!! The owners, (many who don't have to pay themselves minimum wage but have a serious vested interest in the health and survival of the business)...the owners could open and run their shops in the evenings to make money and NOT have to pay an employee! In this economy...that might make sense.

oliveoyl 8 years, 6 months ago

oh deskboy...how little you know. Apples to oranges my friend. You obvioulsy know nothing about business. I agree with a lot of people on here that say its not cost effective for the owners...i can vouche and say it's true. As a long term DT employee I have seen how unworth it is to stay open late...we tried. Most people who finish their dinners just want to walk around...they don't buy anything, trust me. They want the convenience of going into the store but they don't spend their money there. Bren is right...try Thursdays. If Thursdays were to be more and more successful then DT would rethink their hours. Most people have no clue how much overhead these owners have. It is ridiculously expensive to own a store DT. I do agree though that if I were a business owner...I'd let my employees go home and I'd park it behind the register and try and get every dollar I can.

beawolf 8 years, 6 months ago

Nancy boy says "Why do liberals lambast me when I try to help them to understand the truth, facts and how the real world works?"....

Perhaps it because you DO NOT know the truth or the facts, much less how the real world works.

Back to the discussion, I like the downtown just the way it is.

MyName 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm not about to tell someone else how to run their store until I've looked at the books. Anyone who presumes to do otherwise is an idiot (no matter what their espoused political beliefs are).

And really it all depends on which store you're talking about. All of the bookstores are open later but I doubt that the toy store, or the shoe stores or the antique stores do that.

I guess the LTE Writer just doesn't like to browse for books after dinner and wants to look at T-Shirts or something.

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