The Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, looking into how retailers can become a larger part of McLean Day, has discussed the idea of moving the community event into downtown McLean and closing off streets to accommodate the crowds. During an informal meeting Tuesday at Moorenko's, it was decided that the concept was not feasible at this time and that the organization would instead look into holding a separate affair to promote merchants.
“The impetus for this was a culmination of rumors and suggestions. Everybody is concerned, and everybody wants to make the best of it,” said Chamber chairman Fred Roehner.
Linda Lammerson, from Dranesville District supervisor Joan DuBois’ office, attended the meeting, which was open to all local business people. “It’s still way too early to decide anything. [DuBois’] view has always been to open up a dialogue and see if it’s feasible. If all the parties are on board, it’s something she supports. It’s important for us to have this kind of dialogue right now. We need to think about how we can make this better and how we can enhance it.”
DUBOIS HAS SAID that her primary reasons for wanting to relocate the event are to increase business for local merchants and because the event has habitually turned into a soggy, muddy affair due to spring rains.
After an hour-long discussion, Roehner said, “I’m hearing that we want to do whatever we can to keep McLean Day where it is, and at some other time do something with the merchants downtown.”
Roehner said that three things emerged from the meeting: The merchants want to keep the event where it is; retailers would like more exposure from McLean Day; and a separate event should be held in the fall to boost businesses in the central district.
Shannon Price, the owner of The Artisans in the Langley Shopping Center, suggested unified sidewalk sales as a method of drumming up business and of letting the public know which retailers are in the area. “If everybody had it the same day, I think people would go,” said Price.
The Artisans holds a sidewalk sale on McLean Day. Price said that it is a very successful day for her business. “We do, on that one Saturday, what we do the Saturday before Christmas,” said Price. She further asserted that most of her customers that day “either have gone or are going to go to McLean Day.”
CHAMBER MEMBERS TOSSED ABOUT the idea of using strategic shuttle parking as a way of bringing event-goers into the business district to shop on McLean Day. Some thought that having scattered shuttle pickup and drop-off locations near shopping plazas might serve as an incentive to bring shoppers to stores and the proposed sidewalk sales.
Tom Mangan, president of the Rotary Club, said, “I know a lot of nonprofits make a lot of money at McLean Day. If we move it. that money will go to the local merchants.
“The layout of McLean is such that people won’t walk from one end to the other. We need to figure out some way to drive the people at the park into McLean to do some shopping,” said Mangan.
Of the idea of group sidewalk sales, Mangan said, “I think it’s great. It’s worth trying. Supporting something that’s communitywide helps all of us.”
The group is not likely to attempt to put together a McLean-wide merchant event this Fall but was optimistic that it could be pulled together the following year for the next McLean Day. Roehner said, “We need to come up with a plan to send to our supervisor. We want McLean Day in the park, we don’t want to give up on that now.”
Cafe Oggi owner Renato Scozia said that restaurants are especially hard hit by McLean Day. Scozia explained that getting adequate food into and out of Lewinsville Park on McLean Day is prohibitive, and on the few occasions they attempted to join in on the celebration, they quickly ran out of food to serve revelers. “A mini-McLean Day, I think would be ideal,” said Scozia, who suggested something akin to a wine festival as a second event for the town.
“Sometimes we lack enthusiasm, so we are basically left as merchants on our own. It’s very difficult to make things happen in McLean, so you need enthusiasm. And we need something, some activity,” said Scozia of the need for a merchant-inspired event.