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High cost of candy scares away merchants

Some downtown businesses to skip handing out free treats during Front Royal event because of expense

By Kaitlin Mayhew -- kmayhew@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL-- Costumed children will once again romp down East Main Street on Oct. 31 as a part of the Hometown Halloween event, but some downtown merchants say they won't participate this year, mostly because of cost.

This will mark the third year for the annual event that takes place from 6 to 9 p.m.

Barbara Dumire of Ole Timers Antiques on Main Street said she will not be participating in the event this year.

"I did it the last two years and it was very expensive," she said.

Hometown Halloween is organized by Downtown Front Royal Inc. which is completely run by volunteers, usually merchants who own shops downtown. Consequently, all the candy handed out at the event is purchased by the merchants themselves.

Dumire said she estimates she spent about $300 on candy last year.

She said she would consider participating again, but would like to see some other attractions included in the event as well, such as a parade or costume contest, so there's more of a draw than just the free candy.

"There's all kinds of things they can do other than just hand out candy," Dumire said.

Ann Arena of Gourmet Delights, also located downtown, said she won't be handing out candy at the event.

Although she said she understood that the event was good for children, keeping them safe and in a controlled environment, she wasn't prepared to make the investment this year.

"We did try it thinking it would promote the street and show people that we are here and have a lot of goods and services to offer," Arena said.

But she said that the event is centered more on the children picking up candy than their parents getting familiar with the downtown area.

Kathy Soranzo of Valley Finds was a part of Downtown Front Royal Inc. when the event started. She said the idea began with trying to get people who lived in the county to come downtown.

"We were expecting 200 to 500 kids," she said.

They got around 2,500.

"I had to run out three times for candy," she said, estimating she spent around $400 that first year. "We had no idea it was going to get so big, and we were happy about it."

She said the second year may have been particularly hard on merchants because it fell on a Sunday, whereas the first year the event was on a Saturday.

A lot of the stores on Main Street close on Sundays, so that left the brunt of the demand on those who did participate.

"I think next year we are going to have to get some sort of sponsorship to buy the candy," Soranzo said.

However, some Main Street shop owners, such as Sue Waller of Main Street Pawn, are excited to be a part of the event. She said they ended up spending more than they had wanted last year on candy, but that this year they are prepared.

Waller said she shopped around for the best deals on candy, finding them at Big Lots and Gabriel Brothers in Winchester.

"I think we've got it pretty well under control," she said.

Other merchants are not going to hand out the candy for similar reasons, but are planning to participate in other ways.

Christian and Rachel Failmezger of Vino E Formaggio said they are going to be open, and have a place for adults to come in and relax. They are also planning some sort of special fare, possibly similar to their usual tapas offerings, themed for Halloween.
Blue Ridge Hospice will be handing out Halloween-themed silly band bracelets that were donated by Wal-Mart.

East Main Street will be closed from Royal Avenue to Blue Ridge Avenue for the event, and the side streets that feed into East Main will also be closed. The roads will be closed as of 5 p.m.

Additional businesses and nonprofits not located on East Main will be provided space to set up booths and participate as well.

The gazebo parking lot will also be closed as of 3 p.m.


So this is a Halloween event for children to participate in, but several businesses are complaining about the cost and not attracting business? Really? Keep your doors shut, don't participate and please stop complaining.

It's truly a shame that Corporate greed has even hit the candy indus.
Locally a candy bar sells for $1.29 and only cost the merchant about .60cents.
It seems that way too many of the items we buy are marked up by more than 100% but I'm sure there will be plenty of excuses for ripping off kids for their candy bars.

Halloween Scrooges! Maybe some of the shoppers will think that these shops are too expensive and stop shopping there! And trust me, after they grow up, kids will remember which places gave them candy and which ones didn't so they could be losing future customers.

I look forward to Halloween every year. My wife and I do up our house every year and spend a good deal of money on Candy. It gives us joy to be able to hand out candy to the Children. I plan on doing it again this year. Last year I was really happy because we got some overflow from main street. Had several crowds from Main Street stop by the Ratigan house to look at the Decorations and get a treat. I am saddened by the fact that some of the merchants will not be able to do it this year. But let's not be too hard on those merchants who are obting out this year. Let's concentrate on the joy it will bring the kids and the community and thank the businesses that will be participating in this very popular event.

I like Ole Timers Antiques idea about adding other activities such as a Costume parade. There is a long list of activities that you can do for the kids. Pumpkin (carving, painting) face painting, haunted house, bobbing for apples the list goes on and on. I am looking forward to another Home Town Front Royal Halloween on Main street and maybe some of those folks will want to stop by the Ratigan's for a look at our decorations and pick up a treat while they are there. Happy Halloween Everybody!

Sword, Motor Man and Joy, if you think the businesses are greedy why don't each of you go buy $300 worth of candy and take it to the event.

I wish I was rich.

Children are a gift from God. I miss my seven grandchildren who live on the west coast and would love to be able to donate enough money to give ALL local children a happy experience. However, that won't be happening.

Some viable options are Harvest Festivals that several churches, including mine(Freedom Baptist) are sponsoring on Sunday night. Kids can be in a safe environment, have fun playing games and getting candy and prizes. Perhaps the parents could consider THIS as a viable alternative to costly Halloween.....happy kids, no expenses and valuable friends made....

It's a bad start for children if their parents get their noses out of joint when they don't get something for free. I greatly admire Barbara Dumire for telling it straight... if it's too expensive, it's too expensive. That's the best lesson parents can teach their children. In other jurisdictions children learn to study hard, work for what they want, etc. from an early age. Then in their teens they work and study summers and get grants to study in, for example, London or Paris. Too many of our young adults expect something for nothing, spend their summers playing with drugs and guns, and wind up in court. Parents can set a decent example by accepting the fact that the public does not owe them anything just because they have offspring.

I can tell you first hand, that these shop owners are not greedy. This economy has them hanging by a thread... Even with that going on, they still all participated in the Sheriff's department/ DFR Halloween event. Wanting to give back to the community, and help keep Main Street vibrant. I don't see the chain stores and box stores doing this for the community that supports them. I know that some donate some candy, but I don't see them taking the time to organize and run an event like this, or provide the Christmas Parade, or decorate our beautiful Main Street. It's local volunteers and storefront owners.

It's too bad this article came out making the shop owners look so negative. This article did not even mention the wonderful Haunted School bus and treat bags that the Sheriffs department sets up for the event.

It's very disappointing to see this article make the merchants look like greedy corporations, and to see some of this negative response. Really ?????

I agree with you 100%, I merely was trying to point out in a nice way to the ones who seem to think that small business owners were greedy that the should part with some their own hard cash for candy. They won't do it though, because they think everything should come on a silver platter for free.

I agree it is No. Va. Daily's fault and the reporter. They should have taken the time to research and point out all the expenses that these small independent local shop owners have. Unlike the posters complaining about free candy they do not have an employer paying 1/2 of their Social Security taxes, the small shop owner has to pay 100% of the tax. They also do not have an employer paying their unemployment taxes or part of their health insurance premiums. Nor do they have to pay for business and liability insurance.

I blame the article for being poorly researched and written, as do you.

Well said.

I don't know about you all, but if I owned an antique store, the last thing in the world I would want is a bunch of kids in there hopped up on gobbstoppers with their vision half obstructed by masks... didn't you ever hear about the bull in the china shop?

Main Street businesses "Greedy"? Obviously the culprit of that comment has never been in business for themselves. Main Street business owners spend their time, energy and hard earned money on promoting Downtown Front Royal. I was VERY involved with the initial planning of Hometown Halloween. It was planned as a community event and an event to showcase our beautiful Main Street and it's businesses. Well, the community certainly turned out on this one night, but where are they the rest of the year when the merchants need them the most? Not on Main Street. Main Street businesses are struggling and it isn't a matter of not wanting to participate, in many cases it is a matter of not being able to participate due to no money in the bank account. It's as simple as that. Main Street businesses are certainly not being stingy - they just don't have the money. It comes down to most of them having to decide to pay the rent or buy Halloween candy. Anyone calling the Main Street merchants "greedy", obviously has no clue what's really going on in Downtown Front Royal.

The cost of candy is outrageous, but you don't have to buy the best! I bought 2 bags of candy at Walmart 60pc. each $1.99

Little76, so how about you buy enough of that candy you find so affordable to give out to 2,500 kids (the number that turned out last year), and donate it to Downtown Main Street? We are lucky they choose to keep their businesses here in Front Royal. If it weren't for them, I guess we'd have the lowlife loitering all up and down the street like they used to be allowed to do around the Gazebo. I personally have bought a lot of stuff on Main Street... including antique furniture that would have cost me a lot more if I bought it Middleburg, for example. Why did the Daily publish an article about Halloween that basically did only one thing: call out the merchants who are not gonna give out free candy. Looks like a lot more supervision is needed at the Daily, a paper I highly respect.

Everything Ms Mayhew, the reporter, quoted me saying was true---EXCEPT---she left out the second reason for my business not participating in the Halloween event this year. I have two grandchildren that live in No. Va. Until two years ago when this event started, I spent Halloween with them. A few weeks ago, my 6-1/2 year old grandaughter, called and pleaded with me to go with them on Halloween this year. I relayed to Ms. Mayhew twice that this was another reason I would be closed that evening [funny that this reason was left out of the article].
Don't forget that all year the downtown merchants are constantly giving donations to the schools, churches and kidsgroups. Believe me, we more than give our share of time and money to our community. Old Timers Antiques

It seems that I was misunderstood in my last comment?
The Greedy Corps. are the retailers selling the candy at a 100%+ markup and not those giving the candy away for Holloween.
Once again the retailer pays about .62cents per bar but sell that same bar for $1.29 at least.
Corporate Greed has taken over almost every industry out there and I'm sure some of you Consrvs. will blame it all on Unions and our President and that's a true shame that you don't have a clue as to the real issue's of our country.

I think it is completely ridiculous how so many of these comments are putting down the local small businesses who are trying to keep their head up out of the water during these hard economic times.
I will not waste my 50 cents on purchasing the Northern Virginia Daily. The are forever leaving out the true story behind almost every article they write and print. I ONLY read 1/2 the stuff that I receive via email and then I have to read between the lines and still don't believe what I am reading.
Too dang bad for the NV Daily for leaving out how gracious the downtown businesses are.
Shame on you too for reading and believing their trash.

Excuse me little76, but 120 pieces of candy will not feed 2,500 kids. A lot of these kids last year and the year before came back for 2nd and 3rds, so you need about 4,000 pieces. That comes out to about $300.00. Why not go buy 250 bags at $1.99 each and give out candy with us on Main Street, or donate it to one of the participants ????

2,500 kids / by 60=41.66666
42 bags of candy at $1.99 each = $83.58
I don't see where that is all that expensive.
If I wanted to I could by each store downtown 42 bags of candy, but I don't think so. I spend my money elsewhere.

From reading the comments it seems this mostly boils down to the return on investment.

As Bunny Johnson stated "It was planned as a community event and an event to showcase our beautiful Main Street and it's businesses. Well, the community certainly turned out on this one night, but where are they the rest of the year when the merchants need them the most? Not on Main Street."

Much of community involvement businesses participate in is with the idea of promotion also. It costs to participate and a business must decide where their money is best spent. Quite frankly much of what is on Main Street doesn't cater to the local population, but instead to those in Northern Virginia with the money to spend at antique stores and such.

Well "little76", you just said it all. It's people like you who always have an opinion regarding Main Street but then "spend your money elsewhere". $85.00 can be a lot of money to a small business owner. $85.00 is half of the electric bill, the phone bill, pay the state taxes or can buy product to stock the store. You go right ahead and spend your money elsewhere, but don't you dare EVER complain that Downtown Front Royal has boarded up shops.

I read the article and can find no fault with the Daily's reporting, I do feel that some of the comments are out of line considering participation is "voluntary" and if a business considers the cost for candy high, so be it. Take your children "trick or treating" in your neighborhood rather than downtown. And a parade or costume judging would be great additions to the event, I agree with some saying the parents' are guilty here.

JackieBlue - you are completly wrong in every thing that you said. If a store owner is 2 months behind in rent and bills, that you simply cannot afford the extra cost. It has nothing to do with return on investment. Where is the town in this? Why isn't the town investing in these activities? Main street is not full of high end antique shops. Obviously, you have not been on Main Street for a while. There are 4 Antique stores on main street, with pretty low prices if you ask me. There are two Thrift Stores, 4 jewelry stores, a coffee shop, computer store, 2 furniture stores, hair salons, restaurants, 2 diners, discount general store, laundry mat, an Art co-op, Blue Ridge Arts Council, the Visitors Center, Chamber of Commerce, Museums, paint your own pottery shop, a book store. How is this catering to northern va crowd. By the way, there are plenty of people that live in Warren County that have good paying jobs. There are plenty of locals that shop and eat down there. 20 years ago, that street was lined with Department Stores, because the factory was right up the road. Since it closed, that beautiful little main street has been ignored. The town government does nothing to promote it, and the local crowd like you has turned their backs. Unless of course, there is a free event. The factory is gone, so are the department stores. Move on, the rest of us have. So this monday, stay home, and treat your neighbors kids to trick or treats.

Maybe it's time to remove the emphasis on candy for Halloween. It's not good for the kids health, and giving them the expectation that everyone must give them something on Halloween is a very poor life lesson. I was raised in a town that had an annual Halloween parade. During the parade candy was tossed by people on floats, until one year a child was injured running in front of a float to grab some candy. The candy was banned after that. It turned out we really didn't miss it. There were still floats and bands, scary costumes, people selling hot cider and other seasonal treats. The town streets were an open neighborhood for everyone to mingle on, and a great time was had by all. Perhaps candy should be banned for a year (next year) to see if that could be done here.

Amen Amen Amen You have nailed it right on the head. The Cost of the Candy can mean the difference of whether or not your electric bill gets paid or not or your state taxes or stock for your store. What needs to be done is the Downtown Front Royal Inc needs to take another look at this event. I have been by your store Bunny and love to cook. I was intrigued by alot of your products. It will be a great loss to Front Royal to loose you and your store. This past year my wife and I have made it a goal to start shopping down town when we can. Or eating at the local establishments instead of the chain eateries. It might cost a few dollars more but it is like we are buying and investing in the our hometown's success. So all of you people who are jumping down the business owners throats because they can't afford to buy candy to hand out to the kids it is this simple. Take a good hard look at your shopping and dining out habits. Sometimes it appears to be the easy way out to go to wally world or target or staples to get what you need. But think again. You might be hurting your neighbors and your own hometown community. Make it a goal of yours to try and shop and dine out local and away from the chain places. You might be very surprised at the new experiences you will have. The Taco Salad with Grilled Chicken at the Lucky Star was a very tasty surprise for me. One that I plan on repeating again real soon.

AS I read the comments posted even mine, I think that the kids could care less about getting candy. We sounds as if the candy was our "prize." For myself and others may feel the same. I think we should have the same feeling as the kids, and stop acting like adults.

sorry I ment to say sound not "sounds"

Ok I've been a busy little bee for the last couple of hours. A thought came to me and I thought that this might work. A solution to the problem if you will. I am putting out a call for the Community to donate bags of unopened individually wrapped candy to the Down Front Royal Halloween Event. After talking to the Down Front Royal Inc. I submitted the idea and was given the go ahead for this plan. I have gotten a list of buisnesses that have agreed to be drop off points for the candy. They are as follows

Heaven Sent Shoppe Chester St.
Gourmet Delights Main St.
Main Street Books Main St.
Valley Finds Main St.
Tim Ratigan 241 Church St. Front Royal

This event is a great thing and the community should get behind it and make it the best event it can be.

THAT is a tremendous idea, Mr Ratigan. I would like to see NVDaily make that part of the story, and get the word out.

Perhaps posting it to the NVDaily Facebook page would help? And if there are any Front Royal based pages?

Facebooks posts are up all over. The Town's, tourism's, Downtown's facebook pages and even 95.3 facebook page and the NVD facebook page as well. 95.3 the river mentioned the post today during the 12:30 show "The Valley Today"

Wanted to give you all an update on the Candy Donations for the Hometown Halloween Event. So far we have (That I know of) a total of four bags of Candy dropped off at the Ratigan House at 241 Church St. It may not be much but it is a start and there is still plenty of time to donate a bag or two.

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