As merchant groups from around the city try to figure out the magic formula to attracting more customers, the Burns Square Merchants Association hopes its new strategy will be the answer.
“Our goal is to have at least one big event every month of the year,” said Tim Bekkering, association president and co-owner of the clothing store Kelietza.
He says the goal is to make sure the events are unique.
“I don’t want to have a Christmas party that’s going to compete with 15 other Christmas parties,” he said.
Bekkering’s hope is that those special events may attract some shoppers and diners who would not normally visit Burns Square.
He says his biggest battle is convincing people to go to Burns instead of the mall.
“Yeah, it’s somewhat convenient at the mall,” he said. “But there’s not much personality. No eclectic stores. No historic buildings.”
Bekkering began his new strategy in January, with a breast-cancer walk, and followed it up with the first Burns Square’s chili cook-off the day before the Super Bowl in February.
“We had 450 people in the first hour,” he said. “It proved my point that if you do something different, people will come.”
The chili cook-off was so successful, Bekkering plans to make it an annual event and hold it each year on Super Bowl Saturday.
Future events also include an antique car show in November and an Oktoberfest … in September.
“It’s a true Oktoberfest,” Bekkering said. “In Germany, Oktoberfest is in September.”
Bekkering hopes that drawing people to Burns Square will also help merchants on Main Street and Palm Avenue.
“The goal is to bring people to downtown Sarasota, not just Burns Square,” he said.
To see a proposed schedule of events for Burns Square, please click on the link below.