October 23, 2008
Downtown's retailers offer extended holiday hours
Downtown Racine's shops continue to work together to promote downtown as a retail marketplace, as a "destination for shoppers," in the words of Dorothy Ward, owner of Molly MaGruder.
Twenty-three downtown retailers joined the Shops of Downtown Racine co-op, which is advertising downtown jointly, and planning events to improve the retail experience on Main and Sixth Streets. Soon, all of them will fly a specially-designed flag out front to designate their membership.
Their next "event" is extended retail hours downtown for the holiday season. The merchants have agreed to stay open until 8 p.m. on both Thursdays and Fridays beginning the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 28. In addition, their stores will all be open on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. from Thanksgiving through Dec. 21. DP Wigley, on Wisconsin Avenue, is also a member and will join in the extended hours. Even retailers who have not supported the co-op financially often tag along on extended hours, so shoppers can expect more stores to be open on those occasions.
The co-op implemented extended hours last year, and this year added Thursday's later closing to the mix. The Shops of Downtown Racine co-op also has advertised Racine's retail destination together in the new regional women's monthly magazine, She, published by the Kenosha News, in the tourism guide, Fun in Wisconsin, online and on Time-Warner Cable in southeast Wisconsin. "We're focusing on Racine and Kenosha," says Mary Osterman, who owns Copacetic, "but we hope to reach to the outskirts of Milwaukee eventually."
Ward and Osterman focused on boutiques and shops when they envisioned the co-op -- in part because the art galleries already were organized and running their successful First Fridays and Gallery Nights. Over time, the aims of both groups have merged, and galleries and retailers are encouraged to open in tandem. Ward, who invited merchants to a meeting to discuss the idea of the co-op last year, was pleased that 15 came to that initial session, "and everyone joined."
Osterman points out that every store downtown is family owned -- and, in fact, most shops are run by the business owner himself or herself. "No one has more commitment to the customer than the actual owner," she says. "The owners give customer service to the level of a personal shopper. They also know their product and can answer almost any question about the product. This uniqueness is the major difference that sets us apart from other retail stores."