‘Late Thursdays’ are meant to draw people into shops

Windows lit, shop doors open — Ridgefield will welcome diners, strollers, evening shoppers with stores open late Thursdays. Merchants hope people will come, look, find things they like — business will be done, cash registers will ring.

“If my door is open and my lights are on, people will come in, and the first words out of their mouth are, ‘We’re so glad you’re open!’” said Ursula Hanavan of Interiors & Designs by Ursula at 378 Main Street.   

She’s organizing an initiative to keep village businesses open later. The goal is to have stores open until 8 Thursdays, starting next week, Sept. 21. Thirteen businesses — excluding restaurants, which are already open late — have committed to participate.

“We are really hoping to make ourselves a great destination for Thursday night,” Hanavan said.

“In turn we’re hoping we’re giving our community the opportunity to shop local, and see what we have.”

Organizing through the Downtown Ridgefield association, Hanavan found some reluctance. Stores’ staffing requirements vary with what they sell, how big the premises are — the cost of staying open varies.

“Every owner has different ideas and different priorities— what they can and can’t do,” Hanavan said.

The initiative grew from Hanavan’s experiences with her Main Street shop.

“I have changed my own store hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday till 6; Thursday, Friday Saturday until 7 — however, what I’ve discovered, is I never close my door on any of those nights at that time, because people will be coming in,” Hanavan said.

“I’ve had people who pull into town at 6:05 and town was closed. All they wanted was a quick hostess gift, or a birthday gift. They’re always thrilled that my lights are on.”

Hanavan’s location may be conducive to evening walk-ins, with the Village Tavern restaurant right next door, serving diners on the sidewalk, and Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shop and Cheers liquors, both across Main Street, open late. But she thinks there’s more.

“I had a Saturday night I ended up closing — it was literally 10 minutes of 11. On a Saturday night, I had over 60 people in my store between 7 and 11,” she said.

“I’m doing business,” she added. “It’s not just people poking around.”

Committed shops

Businesses committed to late Thursdays include: Addessi Jewelers, AR Kids, Audrey Road, Cheers, Craig’s Fine Jewelry, Hutton’s Fine Menswear, Nancy O’s, The Purple Frog, Rodier Flowers, Olley Court, Squash’s, Turkey Ridge and Interiors and Designs by Ursula.

Many families have two parents working, Hanavan said.

“I think retailers need to work a little harder to get local people to come in, when we close at 5 or 5:30 and most of our customers work,” she said.

Hanavan expects late Thursdays will attract more businesses — especially during the holiday season — but also thinks it can work year-round.

“Hopefully, this will do nothing but be a benefit for everyone,” she said.

“All it takes is for us to be open.”

‘A real synergy’

A supporter of late Thursday hours is Ridgefield Playhouse executive director Allison Stockel.

“We always have shows Thursdays, there are people who are in the restaurants Thursdays,” she said.

“October, November, December, we pretty much have something every Thursday night ...

“It’s good for the fall,” Stockel said, “but especially for the summer. People walk, they’re out on the street, they have dinner and after dinner they want to stroll Main Street a little bit.”

The Playhouse can publicize what’s going on downtown in emails to people with tickets for particular shows.

Stockel lamented the town’s early shut-down when she was at the Economic and Community Development Commission’s August meeting.

“There are many times people come into town and shop after shop is closed,” she said.

Stockel argues that merchants should stay open to at least 8 — when Playhouse shows usually start — to create a real synergy. People could come to town, have dinner, then stroll and shop before showtime.

“I just feel like 8 is a better time, if you’re going to do it and you’re going to coordinate,” she said. “Stay open til 8 — that’s when people are going to go to the show.”

Hanavan agrees.

“They do a lot of Thursday night shows,” she said. “...There is a lot of cross-marketing that we can do.”

Her design business has benefited from the Playhouse’s draw.

“I have clients because of the people she brings into town. I have clients in Massachusetts, New Jersey — all because they traveled here to go to the Playhouse,” she said

Restaurants could coordinate, too.

“A Thursday night drink — that could be fun,” said Hanavan.

The library is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, closing earlier Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

“We average between 100 and 200 visitors between 6 and 8 p.m. on an average Thursday, depending on what kind of programs we might have scheduled,” said Mary Rindfleisch, the library’s assistant director.

“We try to be sensitive to the concert schedule in the park during the summer because of the parking concerns, but we do frequently have public events on Thursdays throughout the year,” she said. “Sometimes we feel like a lonely light at the end of Main Street in the evenings, when so many stores close at 6 or so. We look forward to having more company and to promoting to our visitors the availability of great shopping and dining options in the neighborhood.”