Downtown shops hope Snow Days draw crowds

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A typical summer or early fall day will lure people to downtown Grand Rapids for frozen yogurt, swing dancing in Rosa Parks Circle or just some window shopping. And when you add an event to the mix, you may see thousands pack downtown.

“ArtPrize is our busiest time of year. Within those three weeks of ArtPrize, that makes up a big amount of business for your year,” said Courtney Hunt, the owner of Humanity Boutique in the Shops at MoDiv off Monroe Center.

But when the sunshine is slim and the cold temperatures set in during a Michigan winter, good luck getting people to walk around downtown.

24 Hour News 8 at the Biggby off Monroe Center and Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.
24 Hour News 8 at the Biggby off Monroe Center and Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.

“It gets more difficult, especially when the holiday season has moved on. There’s not like the holiday cheer getting people out to get hot chocolate and things,” said Biggby shift supervisor Alexis Kole.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. said that’s why it’s stepping up efforts for more winter events, like Snow Days, which start Friday.

“The fact that they came up with Snow Days I think is really great for local business, and it gives people a reason to enjoy the elements and see downtown during the winter and see the shops,” Hunt said. “When foot traffic is down business can be down, so it’s nice to see events in the winter that bring people out of their hibernation and they’re having fun and they’re enjoying themselves outside.”

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. commissioned a research firm last year to conduct a downtown census. It shows 17 percent of the downtown area is either commercial or residential.

Out of all the jobs in the city of Grand Rapids, 35 percent are downtown — more than 45,000 workers.

Many downtown stores are hopeful that more winter activities will send more shoppers their way.

“Much of our business is really reliant on that, especially being right next to Rosa Parks Circle. So anything that happens right down here is going to affect us and bring a lot more people in. Ice skating is one of those things in the winter that really keeps us going,” Kole said.