North Adams businesses profit from Solid Sound festival


NORTH ADAMS -- James Gifford, 67, has lived in the city all his life. While he says he's "too old" to enjoy the third Solid Sound festival at Mass MoCA, he is glad it was here this weekend.

"It gives us a good shake," Gifford said. "[North Adams] needs this, and they need a lot more of it. They need it for the money."

For residents old enough to remember the North Adams of days gone by, the clogged vehicle and pedestrian traffic caused by Wilco's music and arts festival this weekend is a blast from a past when the city's economy boomed and tourism thrived.

"You wouldn't believe it, but North Adams used to always be like this," resident Margo Melito said as she sat inside The Mohawk Bar on Marshall Street. Outside, on a sunny Saturday morning, street vendors called out their offerings of hot dogs or ice-cold lemonade, and North Adams Police officers guided traffic.

Only close family members of The Mohawk Bar's owner, Ron Franzoni, were inside the bar early Saturday morning, but bartender Ellen Sutherland said the business bustled with Wilco fans after Friday's opening night.

"It's the nicest group of people you'll ever wait on," said Sutherland, Franzoni's daughter-in-law. She worked the bar this weekend since the rush of business may be too much for Franzoni's health.

"It brings a lot of people into town," said John Franzoni, Ron's son. "It's great for the area. I've never heard of any issues."

To allow businesses to capitalize on the spike in tourism and commerce, the city extended liquor licenses until 2 a.m. for this weekend only.

"Late night gets pretty busy," said Jared Decoteau, owner of Public Eat + Drink on Holden Street. "Typically, we only serve dinner, but we've been open for lunch this weekend."

Solid Sound's opening night Friday generated about a 20 percent increase in business for Public Eat + Drink, most of it coming from tourists rather than the usual locals.

Mary Giannaris, the owner of Christo's Famous Pizza on Holden Street, said business doubled Friday, but so far, the festival's inaugural year in 2010 has been the best.

Early eaters crowded MediTerra on Main Street on Saturday morning. Owner Fahri Karakaya said it was so busy, he wouldn't have time to talk until after the festival ends.

Since Solid Sound, and specifically Wilco, draws people in from around the globe, they reserve rooms in North Adams hotels in advance -- The Porches Inn on River Street was booked up 15 months in advance.

People don't book rooms at The Porches Inn too far ahead of time unless it's for a festival like Solid Sound, according to innkeeper Mel Karakaya.

"Most of the people who stay here know each other because they've stayed here before," she said.

The Holiday Inn on Main Street was also booked solid this weekend, but rooms were expected to become available again tonight, as Solid Sound ends its weekend-long mix of music, art, food and camaraderie. No information for a Solid Sound 2014 is available yet.

"The city should be excited it's here," Franzoni said. "Whatever inconvenience it causes with parking or traffic: Who cares?"


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