Promotion a bust for some city antique shops

October 09, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

To Antique Row, this weekend's ballyhooed "Downtown Baltimore Show" seemed yesterday more like a rerun than a promotion that could bring suburbanites to the city.

"It looks just like a normal Saturday," lamented Lloyd Wallace, who owns Leilani's of Hawaii with his wife, Leilani, in the 800 block of N. Howard Street and in the middle of a cluster of `D antique shops on the northern fringe of downtown. He looked with disdain at the light-rail cars that zipped passengers past his store en route to the city's core.

Mr. Wallace had hoped the Downtown Baltimore Show, billed in newspaper and television advertisements and other promotions as a four-day open house for the greater downtown area, would attract more customers to Leilani's with the promise of fun, music, arts, dancing and sidewalk sales. He was counting on traffic from collectors pricing items for today's auction at 1 p.m. on Antique Row.

But when lunchtime ended yesterday, he had given up hope that the promotion would be a boon for his store.

A smattering of other businesses on Charles and Read streets visited at random yesterday apparently were having the same kind of experience -- business as usual despite the bright purple, yellow, green and red signs promoting the Downtown Baltimore Show.

A few blocks south, however, the Inner Harbor bustled with activity and large crowds.

The Downtown Partnership, a private group that seeks to boost the downtown's image, came up with the open house to bring suburbanites into Baltimore so they could discover, or rediscover, some of the city's treasures.

The promotion, which ends today, follows a first open house in April, which claimed credit for bringing numerous suburban dwellers into the city for two days.

Mr. Wallace said business picked up during the first open house, and said he did not know why the crowds didn't come this time.

"We had a lot more people all day long," he said of the April promotion. He wondered if pamphlets listing this weekend's events were distributed too late, adding that he didn't receive them until yesterday.

There also was an added touch for customers at the Crown Framing shop, on North Howard Street. Prints by such artists as Monet and Romare Bearden were accompanied by a spread of cookies and potato chips.

"We can't afford wine and cheese like the big places downtown," owner T. J. Fu said with a laugh.

Early yesterday, he said crowds were light, but business picked up later.

At the Inner Harbor and Broadway Market in Fells Point, the crowds were typically large.

The Downtown Baltimore Show may have helped, but many people said the main reason they were there was the golden weather -- temperatures were in the 70s.

Many visitors were out-of-towners, like 26-year-old Dave Kochik, who came from York, Pa., with his parents, sister and three other relatives, and 19-year-old Carrie Reckamp, who was with classmates from Bloomsburg State College in Pennsylvania.

Brian Lewbart, spokesman for the Downtown Partnership, said that at places he went to during the day, crowds were large,

particularly as the afternoon progressed.

But he noted that he didn't visit Antique Row.

HIGHLIGHTS TODAY

Among the highlights of today, the final day of this weekend's Downtown Baltimore Show promotion:

* Kid's Day Downtown: Participating restaurants offer free food to children under 12 (two per paying adult).

* Sidewalk sales: Look for a variety of participating shops from Fells Point west to Market Center, from the Inner Harbor north to the Charles Street shopping area.

* Antiques auction: 1 p.m. Check Antique Row, in the 800 block of N. Howard St.

* Free music: It's Peabody Ragtime Sunday at Mount Vernon Park at the Washington Monument, with the music of Scott Joplin, big bands, Dixieland and more from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. In Fells Point, more live music can be found at Broadway Square, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Information: 342-SHOW.

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