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Shops hope to retain tourists in downtown Niles

NILES, Mich.—

Two major events happening this month are expected to bring in thousands of tourists to Niles.

But local businesses are trying to find ways to keep that traffic downtown.

“They don’t stay and check out the local businesses,” said John Crothers, owner of Resurrections. “As soon as the parade is over they empty and go back to the festival, or home.”

The annual season-long Niles Scream Park opened Friday.

It and the Apple Festival, set to take place at the end of the month, have brought a lot of foot traffic to the area for decades.

“Saturdays are our busiest,” said Heidi Abri-Green, an employee at the Nugget. “It’s starting to pick up this time of year with all the festivals in town.”

Business is usually at its best in September at this restaurant.

“It’s great and I’ve been at the nugget for 10 years, so I’ve experienced every festival for the past ten years,” said Green.

While anticipation builds for the after-festivals-rush at diners like the Nugget, other shops on the strip are a bit anxious.

“There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people out here for the parade, i mean, the parade is great, draws a lot of people but that’s all they’re here for,” said Crothers.

Crothers says thousands might pass retailers like his local home décor store on big event weekends, but not too many return.

The Four Flags Chamber of Commerce is trying to solve that problem.

Tuesday,  it partnered with Buchanan’s Chamber of Commerce to host an area business expo.

It gave 45 local shops an opportunity to introduce their services to the surrounding community.

“Exposing greatness is all about taking people who have never seen or heard of these businesses and bringing them right to the business owners and having people talk to them,” said Gina Barger, membership coordinator for the Four Flags Chamber of Commerce.

Shop owners say that’s helpful because while festivals may draw folks to the area, opportunities to keep them in the area are needed.

“Make your presence known, don’t just open your door and expect people to walk in, get out there and do the footwork,” said Brian Williams, owner of the Brass Eye.

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