Downtown businesses mixed in Kerry response

When the Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign busses into Bowling Green on Sunday, many downtown businesses will lock down-then hope for increased sales when they’re allowed to re-open their doors.

“They’re making everybody on the block close for a couple hours,” said Don Dibart of Beartooth Mountaineering, which is located less than 100 feet from the anticipated Main Street rally site.

“I don’t remember whether it was for setup or teardown but it was for a couple hours. Specifically, they said the front and back entrances had to be closed.”

Business owners farther from the planned rally location expect less change in operations.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact on our end of town,” said For Keeps owner Amy Craft Ahrens.

A letter sent from the city to downtown businesses Wednesday notes the campaign’s plans to hold its rally somewhere within the 100, 200, or 300 block of Main Street.

“It’s really up in the air,” said Cla-zel general manager Penny Parker. “I don’t think they’ve spelled it out probably for security reasons. When I met with the tour manager-a very nice young man-he sounded as if we’ll need to lock our doors during the event itself.”

A representative of the campaign clarified that security measures were being implemented by the Secret Service, not by campaign staff.

Parker does not think the event will have a significant effect on her business, but says other stores may benefit.

“There’s so many great places to visit downtown-coffeeshops, places to go for dessert-so many great things to do,” Parker said. “I imagine a lot of people will stick around.”

One of the restaurant owners in question, Heather Andre, says her business-Squeaker’s vegetarian cafe and food store-will probably see mild sales growth.

“We’ll probably have a little more staff,” Andre said. “It is a big deal but it’s not a big deal to the store as much as to the community. We’re really excited, my partner and I, that they’ll be here.”

Kristi Nekoranec of the Corner Grill argues that the benefits of keeping the business open on Sunday are negligible.

“We’re usually closed Sundays,” Nekoranec said. “They said we’d have to close the front door, and the back is our kitchen, so there’s no room for people to get in and out.”

“I don’t know if [we were] planning on opening after the thing was done. If we were going to be open we’re just going to for a couple of hours and that’s it. We’re not sure yet.”

The Bowling Green leg of the Kerry/Edwards Tour, meant to reach rural voters, will be stopping in Zanesville the night before arriving in Bowling Green Sunday. The gates of the Bowling Green event will open at 1:30 p.m.

Parker likes that timing.

“Sunday we have got a 5:30 movie and an 8:15 movie,” Parker said. “The rally should be done and shouldn’t be a problem by then, business-wise.”

Parker said the idea of a lengthy campaign departure causing business delays does not worry her.

“We’ve had a lot of downtown events before. We’ve had Black Swamp, and the town works as a team during those events,” Parker said.

Craft Ahrens agrees that the downtown community will perform well.

“I think it will show people how great our downtown is. We have a great downtown and it’s great for people to recognize that.”

The Kerry/Edwards Campaign made a point of choosing the downtown location, citing appearance as a deciding factor. Downtown businesses were also chosen as ticket distributors for the event, with Newlove Realty, Huntington Bank and Grounds for Thought among the locations where the free tickets were made available. Tickets are also printable from the Web at

Along with free tickets, the Columbus Dispatch has indicated that Ben Affleck may be an attracting presence for potential attendees, reporting that Affleck is “slated to join Kerry and Sen. John Edwards on a bus tour through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.”

Despite these factors, Parker says other elements might ultimately affect businesses more.

“More than anything, it depends on the weather,” the theater manager said. “It’s interesting to see how it will go.”

Update (Saturday, July 31)

Earlene Kilpatrick, director of Bowling Green’s Main Street program said today that the Sunday timing of the Edwards/Kerry campaign may hinder some businesses.

“The majority of the businesses are normally closed on Sunday to begin with, but with the Kerry/Edwards campaign, the majority of those businesses also were excited to have them in the downtown.”

Kilpatrick said details of possible commercial activity are still being worked out.

“There are a few of our businesses that we certainly wish there was a way to tap into the consumer that would be visiting to watch that campaign,” Kilpatrick said. “For security reasons at this point in time we’re still working on ways that that could be possible.”