Diane Ellis has owned Mixed Up Cooking and Baking Supplies located at 161 Main Street for ten years. Ellis said that she loves Fourth of July and decorates her storefront window every year.  Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — The Farmington Rotary Club and the Farmington Downtown Association will be hosting a Fourth of July window decorating contest to encourage people to shop local during the holiday weekend. The contest will replace the Rotary’s typical Fourth of July parade which has been canceled due to COVID-19.

Participating businesses will compete for prizes by decorating their storefront windows that will be judged by Rotary members on Friday, July 3. From 9 to 10 a.m., children in prekindergarten through fourth grade will also have the opportunity to paint designated downtown windows red, white and blue.

“The window has never been more important, that’s the truth throughout,” owner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers (DDG) Kenny Brechner said in a phone interview. 

DDG has remained open for curbside pick up throughout the pandemic, and Brechner has had to completely reorient the way he conducts business. During the initial stage of the pandemic in late March and early April, Brechner saw a spike in shipping orders which has been a labor-intensive operation. He is hoping customers will start utilizing the curbside option more and that the Fourth of July event will encourage people to pass by the store, look in the window and call-in an order.

Twice Sold Tales Bookstore decided to halt their Wi-Fi cafe offering during the pandemic, but they are now open to book browsers. Co-owner Amber Stone has decorated her storefront window for the Fourth of July with a sign that reads, “Unlearn history.” Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Co-owner of Twice Sold Tales Amber Stone has been pleased with business since reopening the bookstore two weeks ago. She said she’s seen on average about ten customers a day.

“For us, it seems like its been pretty good. I’m surprised, and its not even the Fourth of July yet,” Stone said behind her counter while a masked and gloved customer perused the bookshelves. “So hopefully it will pick up even more.”

Stone has arranged history books in the window such as Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” She opted out of the usual red, white and blue decor and instead hung a black and white sign in the window that reads, “unlearn history.”

“I found out about the Fourth of July contest a couple weeks ago, and it was right when Black Lives Matter was happening and really taking off,” Stone said. “And it just felt like the perfect time to focus on reexamining our history and what Independence Day means to all of us.”

Iron and Vine owners Vera Johnson and John Nichols decorated their storefront window with locally crafted, Americana-style art pieces. Johnson specializes in copper and ironwork for her jewelry and sculptures while Nichols is a woodworker who makes pieces such as clam baskets and paddles for beer flights. The store also houses art from over 30 local artisans.

Vera Johnson, left, and John Nichols of Vera’s Iron and Vine hope to see an increase in foot traffic during the Fourth of July weekend. Their store offers cold-brew, nitro coffee on tap and art from over 30 local artisans. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

“Sure, somebody could go online and order that, but what about supporting right in your backyard, putting the money right back into the community?” Johnson asked while presenting a bookshelf full of locally made bee products. “And that’s where I want to try and bridge that gap with people thinking in terms of art. This is locally-made stuff, please stop buying from China.”

This is Iron and Vine’s first year at their 127 Broadway Street location after moving from Front Street. They were hoping the move would increase foot traffic to their shop, but the pandemic has greatly affected their business. The owners have relied heavily on social media to promote their products, but they have been hesitant to invest more resources into advertising.

“We haven’t put any effort out to do anything more because we don’t know if next month we’re going to be told to close the doors again,” Nichols said. “So we’re just kind of in limbo. We do a lot of self-promoting on Facebook, and we get a lot of likes and reposts.”

Owner of Mixed Up Kitchen Diane Ellis said business has been “fabulous” since reopening after a month-long closure.

“I think with COVID, a lot of people were spending time at home and they were trying cooking things they’ve never done,” Ellis said.

Customers have been frequenting Ellis’ cooking store for new kitchen appliances and ingredients that have been wiped out in supermarkets such as yeast.

“So in that respect, I think, while we’re never going to recover the money from all of the weeks that we were closed, once we reopened it’s been steady,” Ellis said.

The Rotary will provide instructions and supplies for the window painting activity on July 3, at 9 a.m. in front of the Pierce House located at 204 Main Street. Social distancing will be practiced with designated painting areas spaced six feet apart. Parents are strongly encouraged to accompany their children during the activity.

 

 

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