By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 9, 2018) Berlin’s oldest event doesn’t have anything to do with peaches, bathtubs or fiddlers, but rather its’ the sidewalks themselves.
The annual Berlin Summer Sidewalk Sale, according to organizer Steve Frene, turns 64 this year.
“There aren’t many things older than me, but this is one of them!” Frene said. “It’s the longest running event – it outdates the Christmas parade and everything.”
Frene said the Sidewalk Sale dates back to the days of the Style Guide, when the popular clothing store would shut down the street and put discounted merchandise outside on racks and, over three days, clear out the summer inventory to make room for fall and winter fashions.
When Style Guide closed, Frene said his wife, Victorian Charm owner Debbie Frene, carried on the tradition. Next year Victorian Charm will celebrate 25 years in business.
This year, Frene said participating shops will include Victorian Charm, Heart of Gold Kids, World of Toys, Bruder Hill, Fathom, the Church Mouse, and Treasure Chest.
“We’ll start Friday at 10 a.m. Always start early for the best selection and shop through Sunday for the best price, because what we don’t sell off by Sunday afternoon, we discount even deeper,” Frene said.
He said Victorian Charm would drop prices on clothing, jewelry, handbags, tote bags, duffle bags and accessories. He said all sales were final and transactions would be limited to cash-only, although there are several ATMS in downtown Berlin.
“Check with individual merchants on their particular policies,” Frene said.
Heart of Gold Kids owner Emily Cook Vocke has participated in the Sidewalk Sale during the last three years.
“It’s always gone really well,” she said. “This year we’re putting out lots of summer stuff, like clothing and accessories. Like everyone else we’re getting ready for fall, so it’s the perfect time to stock up for next year’s sizes for summer.”
World of Toys owner Olga Kozhevnikova said she planned to put out four or five tables, including summer products by toy manufacturer Melissa and Doug, with discounts of up to 50 percent off.
“We’ll put out some games and puzzles, and some overstock items and Playmobil items,” she said. “We do it every year and the biggest day is always Friday. We always recommend for people to come the first day for the best selection.”
Bruder Hill will offer 10-60 percent off of select items, to include “a little bit of everything,” according to Larnet St. Amant.
Fathom will offer discounts on summer fashions, co-owner Hunter Smith said.
Helen Wiley of the Church Mouse will sell clothing and other items priced at $5 and below. She said proceeds would assist the school supply drive for Berlin nonprofit Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services.
Additionally, the Treasure Chest will sell Alex and Ani bracelets for $10, as well as Christmas decorations and other items.
For the majority of the event, Friday through Sunday, Frene said the Sidewalk Sale would stay exclusively on the sidewalks. On Saturday, however, it will also spill out onto Commerce Street.
“What it does for the town, is it does bring people in,” he said. “We have people we see every year who set their vacations because of the sidewalk sale. They come in and they do bargain hunting.
“For a lot of people, this is the unofficial start of Christmas shopping. They pick up some great bargains and you bring a lot of people in for that,” Frene continued. “And the cool thing is, Friday falls on the 2nd Friday art stroll, so even more shops will be open and there will be bargains on the sidewalks even later than normal.”
Sunday, coincidentally, is the start of Maryland’s “Tax-Free Week,” Frene added.
“So, you save an additional 6 percent on qualifying apparel, footwear and backpacks,” he said. “It’s kinda neat how that happens.”
For more information, search “Berlin Summer Sidewalk Sale” on Facebook.