It’s been a rough few months, to say the least, for owners of small businesses and restaurants. With ever-changing government restrictions, most are still struggling to keep their doors open.
But in Bristol Borough, a number are uniting to recharge the business district and bring some life back to Mill Street.
During a recent Zoom meeting hosted by Bill Pezza, president of Raising the Bar (a group of local volunteers who work to promote the borough), a slew of fall events and activities were planned, all of which are aimed at safely attracting people to the once-bustling area.
“We’ve been individually working our tails off. The businesses, hats off to all of them – the retail, the restaurants, the artistic enterprises. Everybody’s been scrambling and working to try to be relevant, to stay alive, and it’s really commendable,” Pezza said. “But it’s also time we remind ourselves that we work well together. It’s time to generate a resurgence in the downtown commercial district.”
The Bristol Fall Kickoff invites locals and visitors alike to shop at borough businesses from Sept. 14-20. At each location where a purchase is made, whether it’s jewelry, furniture or a haircut, the customer fills out a contest card with their name and email address and leaves it with the owner.
All cards will be collected at the end of the week, and a drawing will take place on Sunday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m., at the Centre for the Arts. The drawing will also be live streamed via Facebook. Participants can enter as many times as they make a purchase. The grand prize will be $200, while gift cards and other items submitted by businesses will serve as consolation awards.
“The thought was not so much the nuts and bolts of the contest, as it is something that we can market, something that we can throw out there to the public and say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’ ” said Pezza. “This is about helping every entity survive and give some mojo.”
A neighborhood cleanup is set for the week of Sept. 8-12. Throughout the first four days, business owners will spruce up their own properties. On the final day, Saturday, Sept. 12, volunteers are needed to put the finishing touches on Mill Street and the riverfront space. Refreshments and supplies will be provided for the volunteers. According to Pezza, it’ll be good for visitors to see the community come together to make Bristol beautiful.
On Saturday, Oct. 10, local creatives can show off their artistic talents during a Chalk Walk, which was originally planned for the spring but canceled due to COVID-19. Artists will be assigned one sidewalk square along Mill Street to create a chalk masterpiece. Guests can then take a stroll, view the work and vote for their favorite. The winner will likely receive a cash prize (final details were still in the works when The Times went to print). Rain date is Sunday, Oct. 11.
Social distancing will be implemented, and no more than 250 people will be permitted on the street at once. It was agreed that shops can set up merchandise outside to increase sales and limit close contact inside.
“I don’t have to go in. I can stay as far away from people as I want to. But simply by moving through Bristol Borough, I am having an experience and a moment in which I haven’t had one in a long time,” said Amy Kaissar, co-producing director at Bristol Riverside Theatre. “There’s such a desire for events and for experiences that is not being met right now.”
Additionally, it was decided that the annual Mill Street scarecrow contest will begin Saturday, Oct. 17; the gazebo is getting a facelift, including paint and new lights; and the music played at the riverfront will begin two hours later than usual (around 11 a.m.), allowing residents to enjoy some early morning quiet time by the water.
Pezza also hinted that something “really cool” is going to happen in the rear of Penn Community Bank, a project that will be announced soon.
“We’re so starving for good news. We want to let people know that we’re doing the lights, we’re having a cleanup, we’re having a scarecrow contest, we’re doing the Chalk Walk contest. Lay all those things out and give people a chance to get excited again. That’s the plan,” he said. “We really need to fight to be positive.”
All events are sponsored by Raising the Bar and the Bristol Borough Business Association. To volunteer, contact Bill Pezza or Craig Whitaker on Facebook. Those interested can also email Pezza at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary contributions can be made to Raising the Bar, PO Box 2126, Bristol, PA 19007.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com