There are many reasons to shop, visit and party in downtown Collingswood, but among them, the U.S. Rowing Club national championships may be the most overlooked.
It’s also the one with the greatest potential economic impact to the borough.
Guests with Ivy League bank accounts and out-of-town license plates bring heaps of summer dollars into the area, and business owners are getting a little push from their local governments to get a taste however they can.
In addition to , coinciding with the rowing competition this weekend are the , and the , which borough officials admit is on a dry run.
Kim Raiguel, who manages , says the business community isn’t sure what to expect yet either.
Her paint-your-own pottery studio specifically is “kind of on a learning curve [for the Sidewalk Sale] this year,” selling excess, unpainted inventory and finished samples of discontinued products.
“People have to usually come back to us and get their pieces, so people coming in from out of town don’t usually paint with us, or if they do, they pay for shipping,” Raiguel said.
She pointed out that although special events can bring in new business, the borough regularly enjoys destination shoppers from throughout the region.
“I get people in my store from Chestnut Hill, people from all the way out near the Air Force base. I get people from Delaware and the shore area,” she said.
John Convery of , whose service will shuttle guests from the Crowne Plaza hotel across from the park into downtown Collingswood every half-hour from 4 to 8 p.m., says visitors “will certainly help [his] business.”
“This is a new venture for us partnering with Collingswood Partners,” Convery said.
Rocco says initial efforts went into raising awareness of the event from “the traffic jams that people just drive by and no one knows what it is.”
“Individual towns [started] saying, ‘What can we do to migrate those people from the river to here?’” Rocco said.
He agrees with the measured expectations of Raiguel and Convery, at least for 2012. Without aggressive, focused marketing, Rocco says, most out-of-towners will naturally gravitate towards brands they recognize and could miss out on Restaurant Row altogether.
“This is a huge thing for Don Pablo’s and the mall because their intersection is 38 and 70,” he said. “Who knows if we’ll experience the traffic?”
Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, who called Collingswood “the capital of entertainment in Camden County,” said the rowing events are “the largest economic engines we have in the county in terms of what the government can provide.”
Rowers and their families “fill every hotel, every restaurant,” Nash said. “They generate millions of dollars for our communities.
“The return is so much greater than the investment,” he said.
On the strength of that argument, to make it an even more attractive space. Nash says those improvements will include dredging the river to limit the effect of its seasonal flooding.
"The look and feel of the park and the surrounding area is extremely important to our members," said Jim Knab, commodore of the Cooper River Yacht Club, over email. "We take great pride in our home and our role as stewards of the river.”
The club hosts its own regattas as well as offering summer sailing classes and weekend racing
“We want to present our location in its best possible light,” Knab said. “The success of Collingswood and the plans for beautification of the park certainly help with this."