Originally created 09/15/96

Merchants are divided on festival



AIKEN - As the 20th annual Aiken's Makin' arts and crafts festival ended Saturday, it got mixed reviews from regular downtown businesses.

The problem was that with thousands of people packed into a four-block area, parking was scarce for blocks around.

Some regular downtown businesses tried to lure customers from the crafts with sidewalk sales.

At Colour, Etc., an African-American store on Laurens Street, owner Deborah Fair said the annual festival doubled her normal business.

"That way people get to know what's downtown because a lot of people never come downtown," Ms. Fair said.

The manager of men's clothing store Lionel Smith Ltd., Lee Taylor, said sale-priced items on the sidewalk as well as regular-priced clothes inside the store were selling well.

"It's not had too bad of an effect," Mr. Taylor said.

A discordant note was struck by the darkened storefront of True Value Hardware.

"Closed Saturday Due to No Parking for OUR Customers," read a sign posted in front of the store.

Aiken Drug had the same problem, though it didn't close.

"It takes up all the parking, so overall I'd say it hurts business," Aiken Drug pharmacist Eddie Sanders said. "I've had a lot of phone-in orders because people just can't get to the door. Thank goodness it's only once a year."

Perhaps that was because many of those attending Aiken's Makin' wouldn't be interested in power tools or medicine.

The owner of the Antique Mall on Park Avenue figured Aiken's Makin' customers and her regular customers were pretty similar. Having the festival right out front doubled her business, too.

"It has worked very well," Jean Kling said.

Capt. Tom Galardi of the Aiken Department of Public Safety said the festival probably attracted 7,000 people at its peak Saturday.

The shoppers considered the festival a success.

"We've had a great time," said Brenda Lamont, who had come from Savannah with two friends. "We've got signs, gourds, hats, everything."