Even after Colonial's curtain drops, show goes on for Pittsfield businesses

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Related | 10 years after opening its renovated doors, the Colonial is staging its next act - growth

PITTSFIELD — Museum Facsimiles is usually closed when shows take place at the nearby Colonial Theatre.

But despite the disparate hours, the store still has seen an uptick in business thanks to the neighboring theater.

"The next day or so people say they went to a show at the Colonial when they come in," owner Ken Green said.

Theatergoers usually spot Museum Facsimiles while walking to the Colonial following a pre-show meal at a downtown restaurant.

"It's an after-hours kind of thing," he said.

After-hours, pre-show or post-show, downtown Pittsfield businesses have benefited since the 113-year-old Colonial Theatre reopened in the late summer of 2006 following a $21.6 million renovation.

The restoration project was considered to be the keystone of Pittsfield's downtown revitalization efforts as far back as 1987, a way to reverse the steep economic decline that occurred in the city after General Electric began downsizing in the mid-198Os.

Proponents stressed the impact a restored Colonial would have on foot traffic in the downtown area, and those projections have proved to be true, downtown business advocates say.

"The Colonial is one of our anchors," said Kristine Hurley, the executive director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., a business advocacy group.

"I believe with the opening of the Colonial we were able to bring people from all over the county as well as tourists to the downtown businesses as a night out destination," said Shana Powell, the business manager and event coordinator for Patrick's Pub on Bank Row and J. Allen's Clubhouse Grille on North Street, via email.

"Dinner somewhere, then a show, then drinks, coffee, dessert elsewhere after the show," she said.

Patrick's and J. Allen's are located a relatively short distance from each other on opposite sides of Park Square. J. Allen's didn't open until 2013, so Powell said it's easier to calculate the economic impact the Colonial has had on Patrick's, which has been open since 1985.

"There was a significant increase in our dinner as well as adding additional demographics to our target market as a result of the theater opening," Powell said, referring to Patrick's Pub.

"On a show night, depending on the popularity of the show, our business can increase greatly," Powell said. "This is especially noticeable in the summer months when many locals are vacationing. We can fill the restaurants with 80 percent of the guests going to a show at one of the local theatres.

"We greatly look forward to when the Colonial schedules their extended performances because sales will increase for that week as a whole."

Downtown Pittsfield does not have exact figures on how much its members have benefited economically from the Colonial's presence. But a study conducted in 2009 by Williams College economics professor Stephen C. Sheppard found that the Colonial had generated an economic impact of $3.9 million and created 92.3 jobs in Pittsfield during the first three years of its existence.

Sheppard's study was done two years before the Colonial and Berkshire Theatre Festival merged to form the Berkshire Theatre Group in 2011, the year that Hurley became Downtown Pittsfield's executive director.

"I wasn't here for the first five," Hurley said. "But I've watched the Colonial grow even more in the last five years."

The difference, Hurley said, are the types of shows that Kate Maguire has brought to the 780-seat performing arts space since becoming the Berkshire Theatre Group's CEO and artistic director after the merger occurred.

"They've introduced new shows; they've added The Garage," Hurley said, referring to the Colonial's lobby, which originally was an automotive garage. "Kate has been really great at listening to feedback from the community in terms of answering their needs. Folks wanted more musical acts and much more to do, and she's delivered on that."

Powell said business "perked up right away" at Patrick's when the Colonial first opened, although a lull occurred shortly before the merger.

"There was a year or so prior to the merger with Berkshire Theatre Group when the Colonial Theatre didn't have many shows booked and we felt that with a slight decrease in our business," she said.

Said Green, "They didn't seem to be as vital as they are now."

Originally located on North Street in the same block as The Lantern Restaurant, Museum Facsimiles has been located on South Street for almost four years. Although Museum Facsimiles has benefited from its presence near the Colonial, Green said the move wasn't made with the theater's proximity in mind.

"We had a great realtor who kept pushing us to do it, but it was the best move we ever made," Green said. "The Colonial was the icing on the cake to tell you the truth. We knew we'd get a lot of business from the Berkshire Museum. But the Colonial..."

A decade after the Colonial opened, downtown businesses and the theater have begun to generate traffic off of each other, Green said.

"I'll tell people who come into the store that's there's a great show at the Colonial," Green said. "Every now and then people come in and say, 'What should I do tonight?' I say go to the Colonial or Barrington Stage; everything they do is top notch.

"I see them. They see me," he said. "It works out well for both of us."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.


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