(Norwich Bulletin) CT antiques shop owners say Sen. Kane’s bill would be good for business

April 1, 2013

A proposed bill making its way through the Legislature could give local antiques businesses another tool to attract shoppers to Putnam.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly moved a bill forward that would expand the existing Connecticut Antiques Trail through better advertising and a stronger Web presence. The trail, which runs throughout the western section of the state, is primarily a way to draw antiques hunters to the high concentration of shops in Woodbury.

But state Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, who in 2009 worked with the state Department of Transportation to erect a series of signs along Interstate 84 to pull shoppers into the antiques-heavy area, said the new bill would benefit Eastern Connecticut, too.

“There’s no specific stats, but anecdotally, there’s evidence the signs helped attract people from New York and beyond to the area,” he said. The signs “are economic drivers. When people come to shop for antiques, they’re also spending money at diners and gas stations.”

There are no cost estimates yet associated with placing the brown signs on highways. Kane said the bill has been placed on the legislative calendar.

Jerry Cohen, owner of Main Street’s Antiques Marketplace, said he’s “1,000 percent” behind Kane’s proposal.

“We’ve been trying for the last 20 years to get signs on (Interstate) 395, but were told we couldn’t put any up,” he said. “It was a DOT thing, so we’ve been stymied. We’re a small town, and everyone knows we’re here.”

Cohen said for years, the bulk of his customers were out-of-town shoppers, many from beyond Connecticut’s borders.

“In this business, you can’t survive if you have to depend on just locals, but you also can’t survive without the support of those local shoppers” he said. “Only in the last two or three years have we seen a substantial increase in local shoppers.”
Other local groups were also pleased with the sign proposal.

“The Putnam Business Association would support a proposal to bring increased visibility and patronage to the businesses in Putnam,” wrote Jeffrey Rawson, in an email. “Not only would the creation of an Antiques Trail, with Putnam as a point of the trail, be to the benefit of our antique shops in Putnam, it would also be beneficial to other proprietors in Putnam, including stores and restaurants.