If you've ever wandered downtown Brighton's streets on a weekend summer night, chances are you noticed something missing. Business owner Keith Karp's customers did.
"They wish more stuff was open," Karp said, the owner of . "Hearing that feedback from them and realizing that pretty much our sidewalks roll up at six in the evening typically, that there's consumer bases looking for more to do."
Karp wasn't talking about the city's restaurants and bars, which are usually open until 11 p.m or later, he said. He was referring to retailers and shops like his own that he said usually closed around 6 p.m., even on weekends.
After hearing this feedback, it was Karp's idea to convince downtown retailers to extend their hours on weekends this summer to accomodate the restaurant traffic in Brighton.
Referred to as Brighton Up, the initiative includes nine retailers that pledge to stay open until at least 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from the end of May to the end of August.
The participating retailers include , , , Elite Feet, , , and .
Also featured are exclusive in-store offers from the retailers between 6 and 9 p.m. on those nights. At The Artisan's Bench, it's 10 percent off anything in the store, and last week at the Main Street Cheese Market, people who bought a gelato ice cream cup also received a free gelato mini-cone.
Besides capitalizing on extra business, Karp is looking to re-educate visitors on what's available to do in Brighton.
"Unfortunately, perception for a lot of years was that pretty much the only thing to do down here was to eat if it was after six on the weekend, and we're trying to change that mentality," Karp said.
So far, the participating businesses have been seeing results.
"It's been very good," said Colin Miller, owner of The Artisan's Bench. "(Increased) traffic, sales, everything."
Even Elite Feet, which opened up for the first time on Saturday, July 2, had a good turnout, said manager Mike Andersen.
"We had a lot of traffic for people for that time of night, so it seems like it paid off right away," he said.
Restaurant owners are behind the idea as well.
"I think it's a fabulous idea for everybody, if we all participate, and offer a longer evening for everyone to enjoy, (instead of) having everyone drive out to Ann Arbor or Novi or wherever," said Elena Borg, the owner of .
David Beauchamp, the owner of , said he's been around for 30 years, and that there's been a lot more activity in the area due to the restaurant scene, and he said it could be worth the retailers' while to extend those hours.
"I always thought they (the retailers) should stay open," he said.
As to why they haven't been before was unclear to some business owners, but the influx of late night dining is changing the culture of the town.
"I think Brighton in general is a pretty family-oriented place, and I think in general busineses are pretty much, 'Well these are the hours I work,'" Miller said. He said most customers are commuters who arrive home after 6 p.m., so that business model didn't work so well.
"But it definitely seems with all the restaurants opening up, just the attitudes have changed a little bit about downtown," he said.
Karp said a lot of other retailers are interested in Brighton Up, but they sat out and took a wait-and-see approach, so the summer results from the first nine will be the litmus test for the rest of the downtown business community.
However, some businesses may continue to Brighton Up in the future regardless of this summer's experiment.
"Next summer I plan to still be open later on Fridays and Saturdays if it proves to be worth it, and so far it is proving to be worth it," Jennifer Saum said, the owner of Main Street Cheese Market.