Green Bay business community braces for COVID winter
By Josh Staloch
GREEN BAY – The offices at On Broadway, Inc. are especially lonely these days.
The organization, charged with promoting Green Bay’s Broadway District and its business community, had to drastically scale back operations due to the downturn in retail activity brought on by COVID-19.
On Broadway Executive Director Brian Johnson said fallout from the unusually slow summer season in the city’s retail and tourism sectors has taken a big toll on Green Bay’s ability to promote itself.
“A big piece of what we do as an organization, and you also have Downtown Green Bay and Olde Main on the other side of the river doing basically the same thing, is coordinate events and activities to help bring in foot traffic,” said Johnson. “We estimate that our On Broadway events alone bring approximately 400,000 people a year into our district. When you have event cancellations like we’ve seen this year, it has a tremendous impact.”
The revenue used to support the On Broadway, Inc. organization comes from those events.
The events which bring those thousands of people out directly fund the operations at On Broadway, and with the amount of spending which comes along with such a huge level of foot traffic being taken out of the equation unexpectedly this year, the group has been reduced in its ability to function.
“I’d take it a step further and say that we’ve been detrimentally affected,” Johnson said. “I think our small businesses need us more than they’ve ever needed us to get out there and promote them and to make sure people are continuing to patronize them.”
The Farmer’s Market on Broadway is perhaps the city’s most reliable regular summer event, with participants typically jamming the street every Wednesday to enjoy food and drink along with a variety of vendors offering unique products.
There was a Wednesday evening Farmer’s Market this year, but Johnson said it happened under a significantly scaled down format.
For starters, it was moved from Broadway to Leicht Memorial Park on Dousman Street.
The number of vendors allowed to participate was cut down and attendance in general saw a substantial decrease.
“Typically, you could see anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 people come through on a Wednesday night,” Johnson said. “This year, our counts averaged right around 1,500 for the modified format.”
It’s hard to quantify how badly that sort of drop-off in foot traffic from such a vital event has hurt the business community’s bottom line, but Johnson said he is confident On Broadway, and the small business community it advocates for, will survive the winter and be ready to move forward, circumstances allowing, next spring.
“Like everybody, you’re putting together budgets right now that are chock full of assumptions,” said Johnson regarding the outlook for getting back to normal next year. “We’re making the assumption that we’ll be able to host events again next year. We’ll also assume it’s going to take some time to get back to normal even if things go well.”
Johnson wants to reinforce a shop-small mentality to the help the business community and said it’s going to take real support from locals to get back to normal when the time comes.
With that goal on the horizon, a crowdfunding campaign will be launching soon.
Check downtowngreenbay.com in the coming days for more information on where funds collected from the campaign will be used and how to contribute.