I was hoping you could help me settle a bet. The majority of the consumer feedback sent to me bemoans the fact that Old Town seems to roll up the sidewalks by 5PM (a couple restaurants & bars notwithstanding). But if you were to poll the shop owners, the number one reason for the perceived bankers’ hours is that there are simply not enough people down here at night to warrant later closing times. Given what’s at stake for the local merchants, I think you’d be safe in labeling this a lose lose situation for all concerned.

So which is it? Do people shun Old Town in the evening because nothing is open? Or is nothing open at night because there are no people? Rather than beat a very tired horse to death trying to prove a negative, let’s change our viewpoint and sidestep the question altogether. Remember, perception is often reality.

I’m not alone in my opinion that most folks simply are not aware of all the options they have downtown. Case in point, I received numerous emails in reference to an earlier post in which people admitted they had no idea you could buy sculpture, vitamins and lamb chops here. And just the other day at lunch, I overheard two people admiring the Old Town street signs but they were admittedly clueless as to what they’d find if they followed them.

On the other hand, it takes only one time for someone to venture down El Camino Real after work looking for a vintage (fill in the blank) item and see “Closed” signs on the doors. Hello new Old(e) Town(e) Orang(e) customer.

People can’t shop after work unless they know the stores are open (never an issue with the Marketplace). However, keeping a small shop staffed an extra 80 hours a month with no guarantee of a return on the investment is something not all independent businesses can afford.

Solution? Raise your hand if you know what day the Farmer’s Market comes to town. Good. Using that same logic, I’m suggesting that all Old Town retail and service businesses collectively close late the same ONE night every week. Individual store hours can vary during the week of course, but to make this work, everyone must be open late the same night every week. Then get the word out.

I’d suggest Wednesday to take advantage of the crowds the Farmer’s Market brings in if they would consider switching from mornings to afternoons (let’s stay real, no one is driving here twice in one day). Otherwise, my money is on Thursday nights. This paper comes out on Thursday and folks could make it a point to check the Tustin News (or here) for any Old Town events happening that evening.

So if you are a local business owner, drop a note below and tell me what night of the week is best for you. When we get a consensus I’ll get it posted here, the Tustin News and the Register. Deal?

See you on Main Street.