Although the 39th annual Territory Days provided a valuable venue for more than 200 street vendors during the holiday weekend in Old Colorado City, some business owners feel the celebration is more trouble than it’s worth.
The event was estimated to attract more than 100,000 people to the city’s Westside during Memorial Day weekend to eat fried foods, drink beer and buy often-overpriced arts and crafts. It appeared successful for the many businesses set up on the four-block stretch of West Colorado Avenue that was closed for the event.
But not so much for some of the area’s brick-and-mortar stores.
The usu street vendors were there: turkey leg smokers, root beer salesmen, cable company recruiters, crafters and more. They lined the avenue from 23rd to 27th streets, seeing waves of customers ebb and flow in relation to the weekend’s spotty weather forecast.
Effects on business seemed relative to specialty and location. The event was largely kid-friendly, with a petting zoo and tiny train rides for the young ones, so shops with such themes said they benefited from increased exposure.
Dustin Sucharski, a sales associate at the Michael Garman Museum and Gallery, said there was definitely an increase in customers during the three-day festival, which happens to fall during the shop’s annual springtime sale.
“Magic Town is popular with families walking through with their kids,” Sacharski said, adding that it does well to increase exposure for the art vendor.
Another business enjoying increased traffic, as well as a large bump in sales, was Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
“It has been great for us,” said owner Mazie Baalman. “We’ve probably more than doubled our business so far.”
She said around a quarter of the chocolate company’s business came from a street station set up on the avenue. Also, the weather kept the small shop filled with customers, she added.
“The rain helped because it drove everyone inside to shop,” Baalman said. “The chocolate is our secret.”
The weekend was not particularly profitable for some, but provided solid ground for gaining exposure to some stores and product/service offerings.
“This weekend is always great for new customer acquisition,” said Molly Smith, owner of pet supply company Republic of Paws. “We got a couple of awesome new customers.”
She said many regular food buyers steer clear of the scene, driving up sales Tuesday after the crowds cleared. Smith said she had experienced more theft by Monday afternoon than in most months.
While some more kid-friendly shops experienced average or slightly improved weekends, others experienced sales dips related to decreased access for regular customers.
One such business was Jives Coffee Lounge, located on Colbrunn Street next to the festival’s beer garden. Owner Randy Fair said that because his shop is out of the primary route of the festival’s foot traffic, it draws away many potential customers throughout the weekend.
“You can get here, but there is no parking or access directly from the street,” he said.
Fair said he lost between $300 and $500 in business Friday and saw slow sales over the weekend, but Monday was busier that usual because of the holiday.
“I wish Territory Days wasn’t here,” he said, “just because it is a lot to deal with and not much to show for it. If it was just Memorial Day weekend, without Territory Days, it would literally be twice as big for us — our best weekend ever.”
Some businesses close for Memorial Day or the weekend. But Dave Van Ness, executive director of Old Colorado City Associates, which organizes the event, thinks the festival has a positive impact on most businesses that remain open.
“There are a lot of businesses that just don’t lend themselves to those demographics,” he said. “But I would say that about 90 percent of them stayed open, and the ones that did stayed busy.”
Some businesses outside of the main traffic area were also affected.
Adam Leech, owner of record store and novelty shop The Leechpit, said he experienced “mild disappointment” with his business. Although his store is located on the event’s periphery, he said the weekend wasn’t as busy as most others since reopening the business on the Westside in recent months.