Last weekend, Baker City hosted the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally.
Our first year in business, we had very few tourists, with much more local traffic. The tourists that we did have were late-night, let’s-get-drunk-and-walk-to-the-campsite guys who we finally had to ask to leave.
The next year we did a ton of advertising to lure the bikers away from the crowded downtown streets, and we were really busy. Yet again, it was mostly locals. We did end up with quite a few late-night drinkers again, though, so we closed earlier than anticipated.
This year, I decided to do no advertising above what we already do. Our sales were the same, and I can count on two hands how many biker tables we had. The locals kept us busy enough.
I give up. What’s the saying? Half of all money spent on advertising is wasted, the problem is figuring out which half. If we’re going to be busy anyway, I’ll save my advertising dollars.
Kris and I had an hour to spare on Saturday and went downtown to check out the happenings.
I was disappointed that Main Street wasn’t blocked off for the main show. The bikes were lined up side-by-side along the wide street, but car traffic was permitted to drive through. It didn’t feel like a rally. People were forced to walk on the sidewalks, and it was uncomfortable. In previous years, you were able to walk in the street with a lot more freedom and less random arms bumping into your personal space.
The normally quaint and funky downtown coffee shop, Mad Matilda’s, was chock-full of leather and chokers, underwear, sunglasses and spiky jewelry.
It was then that I realized that they had finally sold their business. I need to read the paper more I guess.
We peered into the vendors booths and since we both aren’t into the motorcycle scene, nothing really caught our eye. That’s fine. We’re not the target demographic for a biker rally. I guess the local ladies boutique felt the same way, as we couldn’t help but notice that Barbara Jean’s had a big red CLOSED sign posted on her front door at 2 o’clock on a Saturday.
Walking back to our car, I noticed that one of the locally owned stores had pulled out a ton of merchandise onto the sidewalk and had some music playing from a boombox set on a stool outside.
The sidewalk was hidden, of course, by the vendor booths, one of which was a direct competitor. Why on earth would they put an embroidery booth from Idaho directly across from the local embroidery store?
That would be like putting a pizza vendor in our parking lot, and I can tell you how that would make me feel….
The next morning, Whitey and I took the dogs for a walk down this same street.
How nice of the local embroidery store owner (and many other downtown business owners) to get to work early on Sunday to sweep up the mess left behind. They take great pride in keeping the sidewalks clean, benches painted (witnessed Marilyn’s Music doing just that!), and windows spotless.
Our downtown is clean, has great architecture, is an absolute treasure, and it’s all due to the owner-operated businesses that line its streets. To see the rubbish left behind made me mad. And to see it all cleaned up later in the day made me proud. Kudos to them.