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May 21, 2019 3:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Backlash Follows East Hampton Village Street Fair

Don Horowitz, co-owner of Wittendale's Florist and Greenhouses, addressed the East Hampton Village Board on Friday with concerns about the spring street fair. ELIZABETH VESPE
May 21, 2019 4:02 PM

Thousands of people flooded Newtown Lane in East Hampton Village for the Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Spring Celebration Street Fair on Saturday, May 11.

Although the fair received rave reviews from guests, a handful of shop owners felt that their businesses suffered because the road was closed and parking was in demand. Several said they had not been advised that they could sell their merchandise on the street.

Don Horowitz, co-owner of Wittendale’s Florist & Greenhouses on Newtown Lane, had pleaded on April 18 with the Village Board to move the fair to an earlier date, or to move it from Newtown Lane to Herrick Park, where the equally successful Fall Festival has been held in the past.

Again, at the board’s May 17 meeting after the street fair had been held, Mr. Horowitz reiterated that both he and other merchants on Newtown Lane had been affected.

Mr. Horowitz said that on Thursday, May 16, about a dozen shopkeepers attended a meeting with Steve Ringel, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the positives and negatives of the street fair.

“The group talked about how it impacted their businesses,” Mr. Horowitz explained. “A couple said they had no sales or practically nothing, and parking was an issue,” he said. “Some said it was a windfall of business, others said it just wasn’t so good.”

Board member Rose Brown said that she was approached by a couple of the shop owners who had concerns about the fair. She said she and board member Barbara Borsack will meet with them next week to discuss the “unintended consequences of a great event.” Ms. Brown added that the board has already committed to not holding the fair on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, which had posed a problem for Mr. Horowitz, next year.

Ms. Borsack said when the street fair was first proposed to the board, the chamber was asked if the merchants approved of the fair.

“We were told all of the merchants were in favor of this,” she said. “We want the merchants to be happy … It will not be approved for Memorial Day weekend of next year, either.”

During the Thursday meeting with Mr. Ringel, shop owners spoke about the possibility of moving the fair to Herrick Park, freeing up the road, and lessening the traffic and parking impact. However, Mr. Horowitz said that at one point, Mr. Ringel told them, “It’s a street fair. It has to be in the street.”

Mr. Horowitz suggested that the best compromise would be to hold the fair the week prior to Mother’s Day weekend … before the season starts.

“We do 25 percent of our business for the year during the month of May,” Mr. Horowitz said of his shop. “Mother’s Day weekend for the fair is very tough,” he stressed to the board, as he had at the previous meeting.

Mr. Horowitz explained that even if four people arrive in one car, the fair brings 1,000 cars to the village during the day, adding to an already “fragile” parking situation in the village.

“To me, having it before the season starts protects us a little more,” he said.

“We want nothing more than these locations for the fairs to be a total success,” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said. “It sounds like there are some difficulties that need to be worked out.”

Mr. Rickenbach added that board members understand Mr. Horowitz’s concerns, and said he plans to have a more involved discussion with the chamber. “We all want this to be a success … I think we can do better,” the mayor said.

Mr. Ringel said the chamber received “overwhelming congratulatory remarks from people who attended.” He added that businesses such as Babette’s, Fierro’s Pizza, Cittanuova and Clic had “exceptional days.”

He said he’d like to find more ways to incorporate merchants into the street fair, because very few took advantage of being able to have sidewalk sales the day of the fair.

Board members Ms. Borsack and Arthur Graham were critical of the chamber for not spreading the word to shop owners about the opportunity to host sidewalk sales.

Mr. Rickenbach added there were some pluses, but a multitude of negatives surrounding the fair. “We want it to work, but I think you folks have a distance to go to achieve that goal,” he said, adding that there is “more homework that has to be done.”

“I think it’s a new event and there’s always bumps in the road along the way,” Ms. Brown said.

“We’ll get there,” she said. “Overall, it was really exciting and a great turnout—a picture-perfect day.”

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I thought I remember reading previously that shop owners had been told they could sell on the sidewalk which they had not been allowed to do previously.
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on May 21, 19 7:57 PM
Many of the shop owners had not heard that they could sell their merchandise outside until it was posted by 27East on Thursday. Shop owners were not properly prepared.
By Hampton Bays resident (12), Hampton Bays on May 22, 19 10:33 AM
Someone better nip that fun in the bud before people start to get used to it.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on May 22, 19 1:27 PM
1 member liked this comment