The fair effect: BCYF brings more business, traffic in Berrien Springs

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BERRIEN SPRINGS — As thousands flock to the fairgrounds for this year’s Berrien County Youth Fair, business owners can look on with both anticipation and hesitation.

The fair attracts so many from within the county it provides a boost in sales at a time when summer is coming to close, while also bringing in a considerable amount of traffic.

Stationed along M-139, just a three-minute walk from the fairgrounds, is local sandwich shop Baguette De France. Owner David Kissinger said he looks forward to this time of year as his business sees a 25-30 percent increase in sales throughout fair week.

“We are pretty steady all day long,” he said. “We have more staff come in on fair week, so we can provide good customer service to get people in and out of here fed.”

Kissinger said the extra boost first came Sunday when fair workers got into town to set up their equipment. Since then and throughout the week, a lot of them have been returning to his sandwich shop.

Day Break Cafe owner Priscilla Riden said she too has seen extra numbers during fair week in the 12 years they have been in operation.

Enough so, that Riden brings in three people to work the floor rather than the normal two.

“Usually it brings in more business, especially on days when it rains,” she said. “It brings in an extra couple hundred of dollars a day, but it doesn’t happen every day.”

Some businesses that benefit from the increase in customers also find the amount of people in town as a deterrent. Such is the case for Apple Valley Natural Food Market ‒ on the other side of M-139.

“Every year, it causes the biggest problem at our entrance,” said general manager George Schmidt. “There have been a few times I have had to call the police for traffic control.”

Schmidt said the fair’s exit is in front of Apple Valley’s entrance, which hinders feasibility to regular customers.

“Around fair week regular customers steer clear of us,” he said. “My biggest concern is the traffic problem. I’ve seen customers drive in our entrance the wrong way because traffic cut them off.”

Over the last few years, Schmidt has noticed a slight peak during fair week. However, he attributes this to the combination of fair goers, fair vendors who stop in for particular items and what’s known as “freshmen week.” Fair week normally coincides with the return of students who attend Andrews University ‒ farther north along M-139.

When the Berrien Springs population expands this time of year, there are some businesses that don’t see additional profits through their own obscurity. As the owner of One Stop’s Bar & Grill, Bill Warren said businesses that are not on M-139 normally don’t see the influx of profits come their way.

“We don’t get a whole lot of customers that week,” he said. “During fair week we always watch traffic go by.”

While Warren doesn’t see additional sales, he said the people that work at the fair often go to local restaurants for a break. Warren has been going to the fair for more than 50 years and said he knows why some restaurants might not draw more people.

Outside of the rides and exhibitions, fair food plays a detrimental role in retaining attendees.

“That’s one of the biggest draws of the fair outside of the rides,” Warren said. “As far as the food goes, that’s what they are looking for. That’s what they wait the whole year to get. The only ones that are interested in something to eat at restaurants come in the morning.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@thehp.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 21, 2015)

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