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Business owners to assess carnival’s impact

With Fathoms o’Fun come and gone for another year, organizers and merchants have begun the task of crunching the numbers to determine where the event’s finances fall.

This year the carnival — the expected source of revenue to fund the annual fireworks display — reduced its footprint and length of stay in a compromise with Bay Street merchants. Some downtown business owners had claimed the carnival’s presence lead to litter, vandalism and property damage in previous years, in addition to impeding businesses by keeping away regular customers.

Each year Mallory Jackson, chair of the Port Orchard Bay Street Association and owner of Custom Picture Framing, distributes impact surveys to merchants. Until those results are tabulated, Jackson says she does not want to make any firm assessments.

But at first glance, she said, the changes — along with a new business-oriented event — appear to have benefited the merchants.

“It seemed like there was less garbage,” Jackson said.

Many businesses along Bay Street, including Jackson’s, close for the holiday.

Some, like Brenda K’s Art Gallery and the Rings & Things jewelry store, close because they typically generate few customers during the carnival.

“For me, it doesn’t make any difference,” said Rings and Things owner Rudy Swenson. “I just shut down. If I can make a four-day weekend out of three, I do it.”

But this year, North Bay Mortgage tried a new plan to pull the attention of carnival-goers to the businesses. Beck Ashby of North Bay Mortgage recruited 26 merchants along Bay Street to participate in a scavenger hunt.

On parade day, each store hid a number of North Bay Mortgage pens in its window in a creative design.

The Morningside Bread and Pastry Co., for example, baked a pen-shaped cake, while Jackson’s store used the pens to make a creative frame in a shadowbox.

The idea, Ashby said, is to get customers’ attention even if they’re not patronizing businesses that day. Ashby receives few customers during Fathoms, but takes advantage of the large number of people passing through the area.

On parade day alone, North Bay Mortgage handed out about 50 T-shirts, almost 500 frisbees and 3,000 pens to the hordes of people flooding the streets.

“We find community events like Fathoms and we celebrate them as marketing opportunities,” Ashby said.

Whether that means more customers for the merchants has yet to be determined, but Jackson admitted the event was at least fun.

“It was a good opportunity to show what you can do and get people around town,” Jackson said.

In the coming weeks, volunteers with the Fathoms o’Fun and the Port Orchard Bay Street Association will determine how successful this year’s carnival was. Fathoms is hoping the carnival’s abbreviated schedule and smaller footprint will still pull in enough money to pay for the fireworks, while POBSA is looking at sales receipts to determine how the businesses fared during the festivities.

On July 19, the mercants will hold their annual meeting, and the Fathoms committee will also discuss the success of the carnival after paying all its bills.

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