Less than one month ago, the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce announced that its popular Taste of Mystic event, usually held the weekend following Labor Day, would not be held.
Jim Bates, chairman of the board for the chamber, explained that there were several reasons for the decision, first and foremost being that space for the beer and wine tent and entertainment area was no longer available at Seaport Marine. Bates has maintained that it was only a matter of time before the space was rented and no longer available.
John Holstein of Seaport Marine has always supported the chamber and was nice enough to make the land available while it was not in use.
Bates also said the number of participating restaurants had dwindled over the last few years and that restaurants were having difficulty staffing the event in September, when many summer employees have left.
Another complication was the weather, which at times had been a problem.
Then there’s the cost of holding the affair, from tent setup to traffic control and police presence and insurance, to name a few.
The bottom line is that the chamber weighed all these factors in a cost-versus-benefit analysis and decided that the positives did not justify the time, effort and money needed to hold the event.
No one should begrudge that decision, especially the businesses represented by the chamber, which pay annual dues for the chamber to act on their behalf. If they decided it wasn’t worth the investment, so be it.
That all changed when Olde Mistick Village stepped up to the plate. According to Bates, once the village representatives heard of the situation, they approached the chamber with a proposition too good to refuse. The chamber welcomed their ideas and the Taste is back on. It was a case in which one of the chamber members reached out and helped the parent organization. The result is that many businesses will profit from their efforts.
Stefan Ambrosch, president of the Olde Mistick Village Merchants Association, was instrumental in the decision to give the Taste its new home in the village.
Bates and the chamber are happy about the collaboration. The village has plenty of space and there are already a number of restaurants there.
Perhaps the change of venue will be a positive development — the village is right beside the interstate. Its proximity to I-95 alone is expected to help.
But if one believes the chamber’s initial reasoning, the problems with weather will still be an issue, as well as the declining number of participating restaurants. The village certainly makes for a better space to work in, but addresses none of the other issues. The chamber must still aggressively pursue participating restaurants.
As for the Downtown Mystic Merchants, a nonprofit organization representing downtown storefronts, the initial announcement of the Taste of Mystic cancellation was a blow. Usually held on Cottrell Street, the Taste will no longer be held in the heart of downtown.
The merchants, however, are attempting to address the problem by holding a smaller and more intimate event featuring the eateries located downtown.
The merchants have taken a solid stand this year, banding together to act on behalf of all the downtown stores. Their plans are just beginning to be formulated but their intention is to have a downtown weekend. No dates have been announced.
To us, both weekends sound fine. There are enough customers to share throughout the entire summer. Both the village and downtown are fine venues on a sunny summer day. The continuation of the Taste of Mystic is a positive sign and it would have been depressing if it had been canceled, just another casualty of the economy.
As for the plans of the Downtown Mystic Merchants, we look forward to the start of what will hopefully be a long-running tradition.