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East Boulevard retailers band together for annual Sidewalk Sale

By Caroline McMillan Portillo
cmcmillan@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/02/10/42/gGGqQ.Em.138.jpeg|315
    - COURTESY OF JULIE SMITH
    Cottage Chic’s annual sidewalk sale was so successful that Susu Bear of ScoopCharlotte.com coordinated a blocks-long sales promotion. Cottage Chic gets between 300 and 500 customers on that one day every year, said co-owner Julie Smith.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/23/22/AaT8V.Em.138.jpeg|435
    - COURTESY OF SUSU BEAR
    East Boulevard retailers will band together June 7 for the annual blockslong sidewalk sale.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/02/10/42/1wBvZy.Em.138.jpeg|316
    - COURTESY OF JULIE SMITH
    Cottage Chic’s annual sidewalk sale was so successful that Susu Bear of ScoopCharlotte.com coordinated a blockslong sales promotion. Cottage Chic gets between 300 and 500 customers on that one day every year, said co-owner Julie Smith.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/01/23/22/19SIWh.Em.138.jpeg|358
    - 2012 OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
    Susu Bear

While a spring sidewalk sale in Dilworth can generate a foot-traffic frenzy, a blockslong succession of steep discounts can turn the neighborhood into a bona fide retail destination.

And that’s the goal of the East Boulevard Sidewalk Sale on June 7, an annual coordinated promotion started three years ago to generate buzz and boost revenue along the small-business corridor.

This year’s participating shops are: Cottage Chic, Petal, Summerbird, Sloan Boutique, Pour Olive, Vestique, Coral and Black Lion.

Summerbird, an upscale resale shop across the street from the Harris Teeter, marks one end of the sale. Vestique, a women’s boutique at 1532 East Blvd., marks the other end.

“It’s our second-biggest day for sales for the year,” said Jammie Dean, owner of Petal, a boutique at 1315 East Blvd., on the stretch between Kenilworth and Scott avenues.

And to make for more hype, the boutique, which will have racks with merchandise on sale for $5 to $25 outside the shop and more inside, is also serving champagne, mimosas and sangria for customers.

Cottage Chic, an upscale boutique offering everything from bedding and candles to clothing and stationery, held its first sidewalk sale in June 2004, about six months after the shop opened.

Co-owners Julie Smith and Aynsley Mahoney had inventory they wanted to move, but rather than just set up a sale display inside the shop, they decided to set up tables and racks on the front lawn to attract attention and generate more foot traffic.

It was a hit, Smith said, so the pair made it an annual event, complete with a big white tent and outdoor fitting rooms, on the first Saturday in June. These days, “we have a line wrapped around the block, waiting to come in when we open at 9 o’clock,” Smith said, with 300 to 500 customers that day alone.

Susu Bear, founder of ScoopCharlotte.com, saw Cottage Chic’s success and had an idea: What if other shops in the East Boulevard corridor coordinated their own sales on the same day?

Smith and Mahoney thought it was a great idea, and three years ago, the streetlong sale was started.

“People got excited about really supporting the neighborhood,” said Bear, whose advertorial site offers Charlotte shoppers a daily snapshot of the local boutique scene. “The stores were saying, ‘What else could we do as a group?’ 

Soon after Bear launched “Escape to East Boulevard” on Super Bowl Sunday, another coordinated sales promotion at the boutiques designed to give women a break from the football mania.

She did the same for Selwyn Avenue, creating “Saturdays on Selwyn” at Christmas and a Memorial Saturday Block Party a couple of weeks ago.

“Charlotte is a hard place to find places where you can walk from store to store – outside of the mall,” Smith said. So “when we see stores opening up down the street, instead of being like, ‘Oh no, competition!’ we’re like, ‘Yay, more stores!’

“We want to be a retail destination.”

McMillan Portillo: 704-358-6045; Twitter: @cbmcmillan
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