SEBRING — It was a lonely place Thursday evening at Captain Ron’s Mercantile store in downtown Sebring.
Around 7 p.m., there was not a single customer in his store.
But Capt. Ron, also known as Ronald Thomas, refused to give up the ship. Almost a year ago it was Thomas who led the push for businesses to stay open until at least 8 p.m. Thursday nights. That was after the Sebring City Council agreed to help fund some downtown events.
At the time, some people objected, saying that businesses could do more for themselves by staying open during special events and having evening hours.
At least as far as Thomas’ business goes, he has stayed the course.
“I’m still open every Thursday evening,” he said. “Some Thursdays I do a lot of business at night.”
Although Thomas said all the businesses benefit when more businesses stay open, he said, he will still be there, regardless.
“ I don’t give up,” he said.“If it’s just me opening Thursday evenings, its just me.”
But Lora Todd, owner of Dogtown USA, said after the first several weeks of staying open Thursday evening, she saw little benefit for her business. She believes that although the idea has merit, additional marketing needs to be done on a consistent basis.
This past Thursday night, Capt. Ron’s was not the only business without a customers. Several lacked customers during that period.
Beverly Branam, owner of Galleria 301, has kept her business open on Thursday evenings, despite the challenges in getting customers. She said she has work to do at the business, so it doesn’t hurt to keep it open.
While she hopes the situation improves, she said she has seen more potential with extending hours on Saturdays. She has received businesses from tourists who visit downtown on Saturday, she said.
At Heartland Band Supply, the only customer after 6 p.m. was a student taking music lessons. Owner Rich Strzelewicz said he continues to stay open between 7 and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, mostly because of students. He said he hasn’t given up on the idea that staying open late will draw in new business.
Although the Lucid Heart Gallery wasn’t getting any business, artist Tony Tapia said he has sold some art on Thursdays. He said when the idea of staying open late was broached, “I thought I might as well open the doors and make some money. I’m here anyway.”
Skin Deep, a tattoo business, has stayed open on Thursdays regardless of the business promotion for downtown, said Gio Amica, who does tattoos.
Tapia said the business goes in cycles, and the economy and the season affect it. Summer is often busier than the Christmas season, he said.
“We can be slow for two days and then the next day we have wall-to-wall people,” said Crystal Henderson, who does piercings.
Overall, Thomas said, he believes consistency is what will help businesses that stay open later.
“You’re not going to build it unless you’re consistent,” he said, adding that the success of staying open overnight won’t happen in a short period of time.