BAR HARBOR – This oceanfront town, with its water-view hotels, pedestrian-friendly streets and scenic vistas, is known worldwide as a summertime tourist destination.
But a group of local merchants is banding together to let people know there is life after Columbus Day.
The purpose of the newly formed Bar Harbor Merchants Association, according to organizers, is to promote Bar Harbor as a year-round service center. Not every store or business shuts its doors between the end of October and May 1, they said. In fact, it has more than 50 member businesses that are open in one way or another for at least part of the year between Nov. 1 and the end of April.
“The big misconception is we’re all boarded up and closed down,” Julie Veilleux said Thursday. “We are very much a year-round community and we need to start acting that way.”
Veilleux, who owns the Window Panes group of stores in Bar Harbor with her husband, Greg, serves as president of the new group.
Greg Veilleux said businesses in town have had success over the years in drawing more customers after Labor Day, but that the association hopes to draw even more.
“We’ve expanded our fringe seasons greatly,” he said. “The cross-country skiing here is the best.”
Members of the fledgling group will need a little assistance from voters if they want to enact one of their ideas for promoting themselves in the off-season, however. The only flag the town allows stores and other businesses to fly outside is the American flag, Julie Veilleux said, but if voters approve an ordinance change on Nov. 7, they will be allowed to put up certain flags during business hours of the colder months to let people know they are open.
Merchants would display a yellow flag with a maple leaf on it in the fall, a blue flag with a snowflake in the winter and a third flag with a brightly colored flower on it in the spring, she said. Association members who want to display the flags outside their business will have to purchase them on their own, on top of their association dues.
The group already has signs up at several businesses around town indicating that they are open during the colder months.
Association officials stressed that the new group is not a rival to the Bar Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber represents many more businesses, they said, and expends most of its effort on promoting Bar Harbor as a tourist destination.
The businesses in the merchants association, including retailers, restaurants, banks and other services, many of which are Chamber members, wanted to be sure Bar Harbor also is promoted locally and regionally as a year-round business community. The new group hopes to work frequently with the Chamber, they said.
“The Chamber does a great job,” Kelly Cochrane, marketing manager for Cadillac Mountain Sports and vice president of the association, said Thursday. “People are here in the summer.”
Chris Fogg, the new executive director of the Bar Harbor Area Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday echoed the cooperative vision for the two organizations. He said he plans to meet next week with Julie Veilleux to talk about ways their groups may work together.
“We support anyone who wants to bring more people to the area,” Fogg said.