Businesses on Lisbon’s main street will host a ‘Save Main Street’ block party this weekend

Kerry Conway stands outside her business, The Sausage Kitchen, on Main Street in Lisbon Falls on Wednesday. “It’s what we watch all day,” she said. Businesses have seen a loss of foot traffic since rebuilding the street began this year. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

LISBON — After construction began on Main Street in downtown Lisbon Falls earlier this year, Maggie Norzow has seen a 75% drop in sales at her clothing boutique, Eastcraeft.

“Business has been much worse than previous years — even worse than the COVID years — and that’s saying something,” Norzow said. “We have been closed for four months (in 2020).”

His business is not the only one affected. Other Main Street business owners say the decrease in foot traffic has significantly hurt their businesses.

To draw more people downtown and provide much-needed financial support to Main Street, business owners held the ‘Save Main Street’ block party on Friday and Saturday.

The Eastcraeft clothing store in Lisbon will sell a special edition “Save Main Street” t-shirt at a Friday and Saturday block party. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

Saturday will feature two dozen local vendors on Main Street starting at 1 p.m., with live music from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Main Street will be closed and all construction vehicles relocated.

Olive Pitt Brewing Co. and Flux Restaurant will open outdoor cafes, according to Olive Pit Brewing owner and Councilwoman Christine Cain. The Sausage Kitchen, further up Main Street, will set up a pop-up tent and grill to serve sausage and steak subs.

Eastcraeft will also sell a special edition “Save Main Street” t-shirt. Revenue from sales will be used to offset live music costs, according to Cain.

Closed on Saturday, Frank’s Restaurant will instead host a luau party from 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, including live music.

Cain said the financial hit to some downtown businesses has been so severe that some don’t know if they’ll make it through until the first phase of Main Street renovations is complete this fall.

“It seems like if we’re not actively trying to get people into the store and constantly reminding people that we’re open, people kind of forget about us,” Norzow said, adding that she thinks people actively avoid downtown due to construction and road closures.

Businesses along Main Street in Lisbon Falls are struggling as construction limits parking and foot traffic. Standing on the street Wednesday are, from left, Flux sous-chef Jeb Charette, Flux owner Jason LaVerdiere, Eastcraeft owner Maggie Norzow and Olive Pit Brewing owner Christy Cain. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

Businesses experienced major traffic disruptions during the Maine Blues Festival in June and the Moxie Festival in July. Organizers hope the block party will provide a lifeline for downtown businesses to survive August.

Kerry Conroy, owner of The Sausage Kitchen, said her business has diversified its revenue in an effort to make up for lost foot traffic. Knowing that the Main Street construction project was approaching, she endeavored to increase overall sales, hold on-site makers markets, and attend local events as a vendor.

Selling submarines at Topsham Fair last week ‘helped ease’ her financial concerns, she said.

Economic and Community Development Director Ross Cunningham said despite the city’s pre-construction planning and marketing campaigns, downtown businesses suffered from reduced pedestrian traffic on Main Street.

“This is clearly a situation where downtown businesses have taken positive steps to create the traffic they are missing this year,” he said.

A woman crosses the main street on Wednesday in downtown Lisbon Falls. The major reconstruction is expected to be completed this fall. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

Construction at the lower end of Main Street is expected to be completed by mid-September, he said.

Construction of Main Street promises to completely overhaul the underground utilities, road, sidewalks and light fixtures on Main Street from its intersection with Route 196 to Huston Street.

Although downtown businesses are currently struggling, Conroy believes the renovation will benefit the city in the long term.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a much nicer downtown,” she said.

Parking for downtown Lisbon Falls is available on the side streets and at the site of the old Worumbo Mill near Route 196.

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