In the weeks before Festival By The Sea, a group of Manchester retailers successfully tested out coordination by hosting a summer soiree that transformed the downtown area into a fun, evening stroll for shoppers.  It was a huge success and prompted the festival that followed. Now, this group has formalized and will offer a series of downtown shopping events designed to be an “invitation to shop and dine together,” starting next week with Manchester by-the Sea’s Sidewalk Sale on Saturday, September 14  from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., which will combine end-of-summer deals and a lot of fun. 

The Sidewalk Sale will be the third downtown shopping event of the summer season and Manchester business owners are working together to plan a local “shop and dine” event every month.  Participants include (in alphabetical order) 4 BEACH, Allie’s Beach Street Café, Bravo By The Sea, Cargo Unlimited, Cuddlefish, Essen, GLADSTONE, J. McLaughlin, Madam Had'Em, Mahri, North Coast Too!, Stock Exchange and Style Snoop.

MBTS shop owners Erika Curtis (of Cuddlefish) and Amy Lage (of Style Snoop) spearheaded the group to boost business downtown.  They started meeting informally at Essen to share ideas and information. Now that plans have solidified, the group has too, calling itself the “Manchester by-the-Sea Merchants.”  While the annual Festival by-the-Sea and Holiday Stroll events created by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce have been successful in attracting shoppers from all over Cape Ann, the group wants to build out from that and offer more local events that will support Manchester's unique retail and restaurant scene.  This is similar to an effort started by Essex retailers several years ago to increase patronage and activity.

Here in Manchester, there are plans for monthly coordinated retail events.  On October 10, the group will host "Manchester Moonlight Madness” from 5–8 p.m. for a fun fall night out on the town.  By this time, the Manchester by the Sea Merchants hope to add cross promotions to their plans, including other downtown businesses that want to participate. 

As for the Sidewalk Sale on September 14, details will continue to develop, but there is already a big list of fun activities planned.  4 BEACH will offer free face painting (provided by Big Smile Entertainment) and balloon art from 12–2 p.m. Elaine Souza at GLADSTONE will feature a special exhibit of award-winning Cape Ann Plein Air artist Zyfar Bikbov.  Essen will bake up “Sweet Sidewalk Treats,” Bravo by the Sea will serve up “Pizza on the Patio” and Allie’s Beach Street Café will be offering a sidewalk "Fueling Station.” Cargo Unlimited will showcase artisan pop-ups with Stephanie Krauss Verdun’s hand-painted ceramics and scarves along with unique vintage and Navajo jewelry.  Cuddlefish will host free skin care consults (the store features natural brands like Dr. Hauschka). And, across the street from Cuddlefish, Style Snoop will have a pop-up fashion photo booth from 12–2 p.m.  

Despite this considerable list of activities, the MBTS Merchants are open to new businesses joining their ranks (stop by or contact any of the participating businesses).  Or head to the group’s next meeting on October 2nd at 9am at Allie’s Beach Street Café (they toggle between coffee shops).  

In the meantime, residents should mark their calendars for the Sidewalk Sale, Saturday, September 14 (rain date, September 15.)