Historic Smithville, with its quaint atmosphere and specialty shops, is often seen as a tourist destination. It most certainly is that - but that doesn't mean it can't be more, said Tony Coppola Jr., vice president of restaurant operations at the village.
This year, the village will offer family activities, store discounts and extended hours on the first Friday of every month through October in the hopes of showcasing its unique offerings to locals.
"I just want people to have something to do in Galloway," Coppola said. "We've always been kind of a family place - get kids away from computers, get them out here, walk around, spend some quality time, face to face."
The promotion is modeled after town of Millville's Third Friday series, which has helped make its downtown a popular area destination. The Galloway Township Business Association, of which Coppola is a former vice president, made a push about five years ago for a Galloway Township-wide sales event, but it never took off. Now, Coppola is hoping the tight-knit village will succeed where the larger business community failed.
Starting at 5 p.m., the Smithville Inn and Fred and Ethel's Lantern Light restaurants will offer food and drink specials, and many of the village's more than 60 shops will offer items at a reduced price. There also will be bounce castles for kids, musical entertainment and nonprofit groups will have booths set up in the village's parking lot.
Smithville held its initial First Friday event May 3. It brought in a modest increase in foot traffic, but the debut was hampered by cold temperatures and competition with a major fundraiser at Smithville school. Still, Coppola was pleased, and hopes that as word of mouth spreads, attendance will increase.
"We'll see if it takes root," Coppolla said. "I'd love to see the rest of the township jump on."
Rob Sponsel, owner of the island-themed shop Totally Tiki, participated in the May 3 event, offering a 15 percent discount on everything in his store - including his top-selling handmade tiki torches - and gave out refreshments to visitors.
Totally Tiki registered an uptick of sales during the event, Sponsel said, but it was the fun of participating that will see him continue to be involved.
"With all the kids right here, the kids were having a great time," the Galloway resident said. "It was phenomenal."
The May 3 event was more of a soft opening and proof of concept, Coppola said, and now that they've had their trial run, he's starting to get the word out about the promotion.
It's still early in the season for Smithville, which, like other open-air shore destinations, needs good weather to thrive. As the temperature increases, Coppola believes, so too will the popularity of First Friday.
"Once summertime kicks in, it's really going to give people a nice alternative to going down with crowds to beaches and boardwalks and stuff," Coppola said. "It'll give them something to do."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
What: First Fridays at Historic Smithville.
When: 5 p.m., first Friday of each month, through October.
Where: Historic Smithville, 615 E. Moss Mill Road, Smithville.
How much: Free.
More info: Call Smithville Inn at 609-652-7777