Complaints from business owners that an annual trick-or-treat event is hurting their bottom line has prompted the Main Street program to kill the Halloween tradition.
The Main Street Redevelopment Association decided last month to cancel this year’s event, originally scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 22, after a number of Madison Street business owners said the event is detrimental to their fourth quarter earnings, according to Main Street President Art Sundry.
“The merchants don’t like to lose the opportunity to do business in the fourth quarter,” Sundry said. “A lot of retailers make a disproportionate share of their profits in the fourth quarter.”
Sundry said Main Street is working on a plan to replace Trick-or-Treat on Madison with a new event next year that may feature an art fair, along with events for kids like pumpkin carving and apple bobbing. He said the event would likely be held the last weekend of September.
According to Sundry, many merchants said Trick-or-Treat on Madison cost them business in their vital fourth quarter because a portion of the street was closed to vehicular traffic. Typically, the weekend before Halloween is a big shopping weekend, Sundry said.
Many shoppers stayed away because of the lack of parking and crowds, Sundry said.
“Quite a few retailers and restaurateurs have felt that it has been an out of control candy grab,” Sundry said. “There have been numerous complaints about it for a couple of years.”
Parents and children were notified of the decision to cancel the event when a note from Main Street was sent home with children at Forest Park schools on Oct. 6.
Tonya Hart, a co-owner of Two Fish Art Glass at 7401 Madison Ave. said that while she had mixed feelings about canceling the program, she supports the decision.
“Personally I think it was a lovely event,” said Hart. “The kids were so cute in their costumes. But any event that shuts down the street in the fourth quarter I would have a problem with. The event does not pull in the demographic I’m looking for. For the community it was really charming. For the businesses it was not so charming.”
Hart said an art fair is simply more likely to attract the kind of people who will patronize the shops on Madison.
Trick-or-Treat on Madison began as a marketing tool eight years ago to draw attention to Madison Street and provide a service to the children of the community. Hart said she could remember only two instances in which she gained new customers because of the event. She also said it was nerve-wracking to have lots of kids inside her store, which has many fragile objects for sale.
Jane Ertle, a co-owner of Team Blonde Jewelry on Madison Street is a member of the executive board of Main Street. She also supports the decision to end Trick-or-Treat on Madison.
“We basically just stood outside and gave out candy because it was too crazy to have kids come into the shop,” Ertle said. “We handed out about $500 worth of candy. As an event it just wasn’t doing what it needed to do.”
Mayor Anthony Calderone said he is disappointed in the decision to cancel the holiday program.
“I’m not happy that they cancelled the Trick-or-Treat on Madison,” Calderone said. “I think it is a mistake.”
Business owners may be too quick to forget less profitable days in downtown Forest Park, Calderone said, and events like the trick-or-treat program gave entrepreneurs a chance to thank the public for the support they’ve received.
“Now that the street is becoming very popular they are forgetting where they came from, some of them,” Calderone said.
Joe Locke, the treasurer of Main Street, said the event lost some $600 for the organization last year. He said that while some businesses spent hundreds of dollars on candy last year, Ferrara Pan Candy also donated proximately $10,000 worth of sweets for the event.
At its Oct. 10 meeting, the village council voted to sanction trick-or-treating on Oct. 31 in Forest Park between 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.