Solid Sound a solid boost for Northern Berkshire businesses
NORTH ADAMS — What's a great way to double economic activity in a city of 13,000?
Add more than 7,000 hungry visitors for the fourth edition of Wilco's Solid Sound Festival and open the doors.
"The increase in business was similar to the past two [festivals]," said Keith Bona, owner of Berkshire Emporium and Antiques on Main Street. "About to three times a normal weekend. Once the festival is going traffic isn't much different, but mornings are when it spikes."
The three-day Solid Sound Festival, curated by Wilco and now held every other summer at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, filled local hotels and campsites set up throughout the Northern Berkshires with music lovers.
While the exact overall economic impact the festival has on the region may be difficult to quantify, anecdotal evidence of improved business was clear. Saturday morning presented packed cafes and restaurants downtown while the Mohawk Tavern, just reopened earlier in the week, enjoyed a steady flow of customers.
Though many visitors ventured downtown, many local businesses went right into the festival.
Northern Berkshire restaurants The Hub, Desperados, and Spice Root all had a presence on the festival grounds while continuing to serve customers at their brick-and-mortar locations. Wild Oats Market, Sweet Brook Farm, Lickety Split Cafe, the North Adams Rotary, and the North Adams Steeplecats also set up shop at Solid Sound.
"For Solid Sound we identify a host of local businesses and organizations who help us offer a diverse menu to our visitors," said Jodi Joseph, a spokeswoman for Mass MoCA. "It's important to us to start local in that effort. We also work hard to make sure there are options in nearby towns for breakfast and for alternatives to festival programming."
Others took advantage of the crowds as well: North Adams-based Frog Lotus offered Yoga classes and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council led a hike on the Hoosac Range on Saturday morning.
Oh Crepe, a cafe that opened on Main Street earlier this year, served more than 550 customers over the weekend, according to owner Benjamin Lamb.
"We saw a great crowd of folks both Saturday and Sunday morning. And while the rush was intense, we were pumped up and able to serve folks quickly and without running out of coffee at all," Lamb said.
Although the unpredictable rain presented a challenge for festival organizers — it drizzled throughout Wilco's Saturday night set, which was moved an hour earlier in anticipation of the wet weather — it was a boon to some local businesses.
"The rain on Sunday helped as it kept festival guests from settling in early," Bona said.
Berkshire Outfitters owner Steve Blazejewski, said his store, located on Route 8 in Adams, had a great weekend selling ponchos, hiking boots, and camping gear. He noted that the average Wilco fan seemed to be between 30 and 50 years old with some disposable income.
"I think all the small businesses in Adams felt a benefit from Wilco," Blazejewski said. "There's a lot of residual carryover to the towns alongside North Adams."
Blazejewski also observed a crowded downtown on Sunday morning near Adams' several breakfast spots, and said he spoke with local liquor store owners who reported good weekend sales.
The weekly North Adams farmers market, amplified with additional local vendors and moved to the colorful Center Street just for Solid Sound, also enjoyed the influx of additional customers on Saturday morning.
"Overall, the feedback was extremely positive," said Suzy Helme, the city's director of community events. "We had dozens of locals stop to tell us how much they liked the location and the atmosphere. We heard everything from 'It's so bright and colorful here' to 'It feels safer and more secure.' Many people mentioned it felt more like a 'market' atmosphere."
Injecting life into the region's economy has been a central part of Mass MoCA's mission since it opened in 1999.
"For Mass MoCA, being on mission means big receipts spread around North Adams and the Northern Berkshires as much as executing the weekend of exceptional music and art for the audience inside our gates," Joseph said.
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