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Despite construction, Sidewalk Days stroll on

People stroll up and down Superior Street for Duluth’s Sidewalk Days in 2014. This year's Sidewalk Days will move forward despite the ongoing construction on Superior Street. file / News Tribune

With four blocks of Superior Street torn up, now might not seem like the most opportune time for Duluth's annual Sidewalk Days Festival. But Kristi Stokes, president of Duluth's Greater Downtown Council said there was never a thought of canceling the decades-old event due to construction.

"I think it's more important than ever for people to support our local businesses and for them to see that there's still a lot going on in the downtown, despite the fact that we have some construction going on. We still have businesses that are all open, and we're really trying to make sure that we put the spotlight on downtown and encourage people to support those businesses," Stokes said.

Beginning Wednesday, vendors will move their wares out onto Superior Street where possible, from Third Avenue West to Lake Avenue. Moving into the evening, a classic car show will stretch the festivities from Third Avenue West to Third Avenue East.

Stokes said the three-days-long event will be a bit more condensed this year, with some stores in the heart of the construction zone likely seeking to lure visitors into their doors, even if it's impractical for them to move much merchandise outdoors.

Other businesses, such as Maurices, plan to relocate for the sale.

Although the road in front of Maurices' new corporate headquarters has been dug up, the retailer plans to set up shop for Sidewalk Days further east in front of its former quarters at 105 W. Superior St.

"We actually feel pretty fortunate that we still have access to that building. It has given us the space to prepare for the sale," said Ashton Hocking, store manager for the Duluth Maurices store, noting she and co-workers began staging for Sidewalk Days on Friday of last week.

Hocking said more than 6,000 items of clothing will be offered for sale, and staff has been hard at work hanging and organizing garments in recent days.

This will be the seventh Sidewalk Days sale Hocking has coordinated and she expects another strong year. Maurices plans to staff the event with up to 15 people during the busiest periods.

While Superior Street remains closed to motorized traffic in front of her store, Kathy Kubiski, owner of Namaste Gifts and Healing, said construction workers kindly took steps Tuesday to widen the walkway, enabling her to move a couple tables of merchandise outside. She also plans to put up signs directing visitors to check out deals offered inside her store at 400 W. Superior St.

"It has to be done, so we're all doing it with a positive attitude," Kubiski said of the road reconstruction.

Kubiski has been impressed with her customers' loyalty through this summer's construction season. "We have a great customer base that supports us, and we support them as well," she said.

While the road is closed in front of Ed Barbo's Columbia Clothing, 303 W. Superior St, Barbo said he's hoping for fair weather today and plans to set up a tent and tables on the corner of Third Avenue West and Superior Street.

"It's definitely going to be different," said Barbo but expressed optimism that he and his staff will make it work.

"We went into this whole construction deal with a lot of anxiety, but it has been much better than I had anticipated. The construction company and the city workers and so forth have been very helpful and great to work with. So we're going to get through it, the sooner the better, and when we're done, we'll have a beautiful street," he said.

"Our business has been up and down with this construction. But we haven't lost many customers, and they seem to be spending more than they would have when they make the little bit of effort to get in here," Barbo said.