Sunday challenge: Downtown business owners encouraged to try Sunday operations

Rock Cesario
Rock Cesario

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Allison Blevins took what she calls the Sunday challenge, opening her downtown Grand Junction store on Sundays for a full year to find out whether the extra weekend hours were a help or hindrance.

More than a year later, Blevins continues to open Tangle on Sundays because increased revenues from the sale of yarn, fabric and other craft supplies have more than offset the added expenses of paying someone to work those days. “We’ve had great success with Sundays,” Blevins says. “It’s been really profitable for us.”

Now Blevins and the owners of other downtown businesses open on Sundays want to share their success stories, convince their neighbors to take the challenge and, ultimately, boost sales for everyone. “If we all work together, I think we’ll all profit more.”

Rock Cesario, owner of Triple Play Records, agrees. “I’m not trying to tell anybody how to run their business, but it makes a difference.”

Blevins, chairwoman of the downtown business improvement district steering committee, has formed a subcommittee to look into ways to promote Sunday hours to other businesses and the public. Cesario serves as chairman of that subcommittee.

Aaron Hoffman, marketing and communications director for Downtown 
Grand Junction, says a growing number of downtown businesses already are open on Sundays. But there’s the potential that if even more businesses opened, they’d achieve a kind of critical mass that could drive additional traffic and sales. “I certainly think there is an element of truth to that.”

The decision of when — and when not — to open remains up to individual business owners and managers, Hoffman said. But the efforts of Blevins, Cesario and others could prompt them to reconsider, he says. “This is taking a very grassroots turn. They want to share their success and show what can happen.”

Blevins has operated Tangle for nearly nine years, seven of that along Main Street in downtown Grand Junction. The store sells yarn, fabric and other materials needed for knitting, sewing and a variety of other crafts. Tangle also offers instruction in a variety of crafts.

Blevins had opened Tangle on Sundays for certain occasions — Super Bowl sales, for example. But she decided in November 2013 to open on every Sunday for a year to see how the business fared through various seasons.

While sales on some Sundays were slow, they were brisk on other Sundays — sometimes even better than Saturdays, typically the busiest day of the week at the store, Blevins says.

The collective result was increased sales and increased revenues that more than offset the added expense, she adds. “Sundays were a part, if not all, of that.”

The Sunday hours offer convenience to customers who work on weekdays and can’t make it the store, Blevin says. Moreover, the Sunday hours also accommodate people from around the region who travel to Grand Junction on weekends to visit and shop.

At Triple Play Records across Main Street, Cesario has offered Sunday hours for about five years, and Sundays now constitute the second busiest day of the week for the record store.

“If I had to choose one day of the week to be closed, it wouldn’t be Sunday,” Cesario says. “It’s helped our business. It’s been essential.”

The Sunday hours and additional hours of operation on evenings add up over the course of the year to a significant number of additional shopping days for customers. “We believe all that exposure helps us grow,” Cesario says.

There’s another issue for downtown business owners to consider, Cesario says, and that’s competitors elsewhere often are open on Sundays.

Ben and Elise Hall have kept the Candy Time Shoppe on Main Street open seven days a week since they opened the downtown candy store nearly three years ago.

Ben Hall says Sunday sales often exceed combined sales for Monday through Wednesday.

Hall says he understands the added demands in terms of time and money Sunday operations impose on small business owners. He says he also respects the religious beliefs of those who don’t want to open on Sundays.

At the same time, though, Sundays afford an opportunity for additional sales, he adds. “There’s good business to be had.”

Blevins, Cesario and Hall all say they believe that if more businesses downtown follow their example, the collective effort will attract even more customers to downtown on Sundays.

As part of the effort to promote Sunday hours, Hoffman says he’s asked downtown business owners to e-mail him to indicate whether or not they offer Sunday hours. There hasn’t yet been a sufficient response to determine how many businesses are open on Sundays. When a similar survey was conducted in October, 31 businesses indicated they offer Sunday hours.

Hoffman says there’s something of a misconception downtown businesses aren’t open on Sunday, when in fact many are and the number has increased over the years.

Blevins, Cesario and Hall say they hope to share their experiences in hopes of convincing even more business owners to open on Sundays.

“We’re excited about the opportunity and how well it works for us,” Cesario says.

Blevins says it’s important, though, that owners take a long-term approach and base their decisions on Sunday operations over the course of a year, not a couple of weeks or even months.

“Take the Sunday challenge. Try it for a year,” she says, “We took the challenge and it paid off.”