Merchants Walk: Out and about downtown

Beneath fluttering American flags, teetering balloon hats and clear blue skies, hundreds of shoppers and browsers wove in and out of crowded Marietta sidewalks Friday during the Merchants and Artist Walk.

The sunny evening was a delight to everyone, but especially the downtown shop owners who experienced less favorable conditions during the first walk of the season last month.

“This has been wonderful,” said Sarah Dye, owner of Top Drawer Furniture and Design Studio. “There’s a nice breeze and lots of people out.”

Inside Top Drawer, customers munched on cookies and sipped root beer from the nearby Marietta Brewing Company as they browsed, and artist Lana Tuten, of Stockport, displayed her handmade greeting cards. Tuten has been selling her cards, which feature intricate cut outs and three dimensional decorations, at the walks and other events for around five years.

“My daughter sent my husband a birthday card that was homemade. I liked it so well, I took it up as a hobby,” said Tuten.

Little Hocking resident Mary Lou Beikirch, 71, said she always enjoys the downtown events.

“It’s just fun. You see people you know. You browse,” she said.

She did not have to look far for a familiar face this Friday. Beikirch coaxed friend Christine Purcell, 68, of Coolville, to come out with her for her first Merchants and Artist walk experience.

“It’s been wonderful. We really liked the sneak peek place,” said Purcell.

Also a newcomer to the walk, Focus Boutique was offering a “sneak peek” of its yet-to-open store. Located in the 200 block of Front Street, the store will offer unique clothing, jewelry, accessories and more, said Kristi Barnes, a friend of the owner who showed customers the wares.

The reception was fantastic, added fellow shop tender Jasmine Metcalf.

“There has been no less than 15 people in here at any given time,” she said.

Among those shoppers was Tracy Lynch, 54, and daughter Tara Lynch, 30, of Parkersburg.

“We’re out having a girls’ night. We’ve been to the wine shop, sampled some wine. It’s nice to have the stores open on a Friday night,” said Tracy.

Friends Jean Antill and Judy Allen agreed that once a month is not often enough for the vibrant downtown event.

“We wish they’d have these more often,” said Allen.

Antill, Allen and other friends set aside Friday nights for girls’ date nights, typically enjoying dinner and then a movie or some event like the walk.

Antill also had some suggestions for expanding the event.

“They should block off a street for parking, and I wish (all the stores) would stay open,” she said.

Some of the shops on the side streets are eager to remind shoppers that they are open and ready for business too.

Overlooking the Muskingum River on Butler Street, the Marietta Harbor does not always see huge amounts of traffic during the Merchants and Artist walks, said night manager Ariel Stiles.

“Not as many people know about us,” she said.

Those who do chance upon the small establishment can gorge on an array of ice creams, quench their thirst with a soda, or even rent a bicycle to explore the adjacent River Trail, said Stiles.

It was the lure of a slice of The Original Pizza Place’s pizza that brought Williamstown residents Mikayla and Kellie Maloney to downtown. But the women were also anxious to experience other offerings.

“This is our first time,” said Kellie, 37, as her 9-week-old puppy Pip eyed Mikayla’s pizza from her spot beneath the outside cafe table.

A friend of 19-year-old Mikayla was one of the many musicians performing outside the downtown businesses, and the women made plans to see her next.

“I’m excited,” said Mikayla. “I want to see what it’s like. My friend is singing around the corner.”