Elizabethtown joins a wave in county, launches Second Friday
BY CHAD UMBLE, Staff Writer
In municipalities across Lancaster County, Friday nights are coming to life as businesses are staying open later and special music, food and entertainment are drawing people to downtown sidewalks.
For instance, Lancaster has First Friday, Lititz has Second Friday and Mount Joy has Fourth Friday.
Now, Elizabethtown has joined in with its own Second Friday.
"We've seen the success of this kind of event in many other towns," says Andrew Schoenberger, co-owner of Epic Photography and president of Market Street Improving Business, which has helped organize the event in Elizabethtown.
"It has probably been talked about for five or six years, but the people who were talking about it never felt that Elizabethtown was ready for it because of empty storefronts."
Schoenberger believes the time is right for Second Friday in Elizabethtown. He said the event, which began in September, has grown organically, aided by new establishments and downtown business owners who have responded to the idea.
"Honestly, we're extremely happy with the way it has been going," he says. "It is really geared toward the Square, but we want it to become an event from the Square to College Avenue."
So far, Second Friday has consisted of businesses near or along Market Street being encouraged to stay open late and offer some kind of special. But in March, with a Local Homebrew Contest & Chili Cook-Off, Second Friday will feature the kind of joint event Schoenberger hopes will become a mainstay.
This evening, 19 businesses are listing some kind of special for the event, which lasts roughly from 5 to 9 p.m.
Folklore Coffee & Company and Lynden Gallery will have live music, while restaurants such as Brothers Pizza and The Pita Pit will have food specials. Others are staying open later or having displays.
"It is as simple as a sale or as grand as a three- or four-piece band like Folklore does," Schoenberger says.
The Friday events actually began last summer as Fourth Friday at the direction of Jodi Stapler, the former owner of a bakery on the square, J's Sweet Treats. Stapler said that while the June event was well received, there wasn't enough interest to keep it going.
Subsequently, some business owners decided to continue the event but move it to Second Friday to keep from competing with Mount Joy's Fourth Friday.
The Elizabethtown event was resumed in September and has been helped by several new businesses in the main corridor, including the specialty butcher shop Rooster Street Provisions and Shoppes on Market, a conglomeration of shops in the former Roth's Furniture building at 206 S. Market St.
Dolores Reidenbach, founder of Jewel David Ministries, which owns Shoppes on Market, says the Second Fridays late last year were a boon to the nearly 30 merchants operating at her location.
"It was just incredible," Reidenbach says. "If you drove downtown here, it looked like we were having a parade because there were so many people on the sidewalks."
Folklore Coffee owner Ryan Bracken says that while Second Friday has started small, the event is becoming a good showcase for downtown merchants.
"It's different than Lancaster," Bracken says. "Lancaster's really thrives around an art community. Lititz really thrives around an antique community. We don't have a huge amount of artists' shops or antique shops, so ours is more generated around the business community."
Ramon Escudero, director of Elizabethtown Area Chamber of Commerce, helped business owners get the event going by stressing that even a small special can help attract new customers to Second Friday.
"We don't need to start by organizing a parade every Second Friday," he says.
On the Second Friday in January, temperatures hit the unseasonably warm 50-degree mark, but a persistent rain mostly kept the streets clear of pedestrians. Despite the rain, the Reed family of Elizabethtown continued its new tradition of walking around on Second Friday.
"My kids and husband don't really get downtown that much during the week when they're in school and at work," says Marilyn Reed, who was joined by her husband, Andrew, and their children, Charlotte and Allen.
The Reeds began their evening at Rooster Street Provisions and planned to visit Folklore Coffee & Company and stop in at the library before ending at Shoppes on Market, where they heard a bakery was giving away samples of wedding cake.
"It's nice to come out and see what's new," Marilyn says. "Of course we like to try all the samples of all the food everywhere."