Thousands of Dream Cruise patrons bring extra exposure for Ferndale, businesses

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published August 13, 2014

 Bre Harris, of Georgia, shines his rims during the Woodward Dream Cruise last year in Ferndale.

Bre Harris, of Georgia, shines his rims during the Woodward Dream Cruise last year in Ferndale.

File photo by Andrew Potter

FERNDALE — From the first food vendors on Thursday to the emergency vehicle show on Friday and the Mustang Alley on Saturday, Ferndale saw roughly 60,000 people come through the city during last year’s three-day Woodward Dream Cruise weekend.

While not every shop or restaurant benefits from the influx of visitors, the city itself gets exposure every year from the event that could translate to return business, or even potential future residents.

“It is tremendous exposure for the city, as tens of thousands of people get exposed to our community and the events and entertainment that we put on,” Mayor Dave Coulter said. “It is also challenging because it is so big, some businesses struggle to get customers to their businesses, and the city always struggles to break even on the event. But my thinking is people, thousands of people, come into Ferndale, and whether they shop or eat that day or not, they come back because they have seen the city and were impressed by something.

“I think the long-term economic impact of the Dream Cruise is substantial for our city.”

Michael Lary, the Dream Cruise event director, said when setting up food vendors for the Dream Cruise, they are conscious about not oversaturating the streets to give the local restaurants a chance to bring in new business.

“Being that this is a city event, we are more conscious on when we provide space for food vendors and merchant vendors that it is not direct competitors to local businesses that are already established, such as restaurants,” Lary said. “We do limit the number of food vendors so to encourage people to go into local businesses and support them. It is well known throughout the years that some retailers are not as positive in responding to the Dream Cruise, but restaurants and bars tend to be much more well received and while people are out having a good time, they do get hungry.”

With the way the Dream Cruise is set up by closing down parts of Nine Mile Road and having limited access to some businesses, as well as busier than normal traffic on Woodward Avenue, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius said businesses and residents alike have to change up the way they usually do things on a Saturday.

“It is kind of a mixed bag because there is a lot of out-of-town visitors and that is always a good thing because you are exposing people to the metro area and hopefully to a community they want to come back to, but they are also there for a very specific reason and not always to shop or that type of thing,” she said. “I have a lot of people who have traffic issues and trying to regulate masses of people in and out of their facility, and one thing our businesses learn is that people are looking for quick meals as opposed to sit down and relax, so a lot of restaurants do things different with abbreviated menus or buy to-go and people can walk out with their food.

“And for residents, we all know living around the Woodward corridor that you ‘x’ out that day and you hang out but not necessarily go anywhere. If you plan to grocery shop on Saturdays, you might do it on Sunday that weekend.”

When it comes to retail shops, Sheppard-Decius said the type of shop matters on whether or not a business might do well during the Dream Cruise.

“I would say people are not out there generally shopping, so it is usually a slow day,” she said. “However, the activities on the street help with getting people browsing, so it depends place to place. A place like Twisted Shamrock, although they may not do gangbusters, they have Irish-based goods and people look for that, so this store fits that and they may not find that near where they live. But a clothing store or shoe store is more than likely not going to benefit from the crowd on that day.”

With events like the Dream Cruise, or any of the other events Ferndale hosts throughout the year, one of the goals is always to bring awareness to the city, Lary said.

“Certainly when you have any event, whether it is the Dream Cruise or the Funky Ferndale Art Show or even Ferndale Pride, it brings people into downtown that have possibly never been to Ferndale,” he said. “They are not regular supporters of downtown Ferndale, but hopefully they are supporting local businesses and when they are here they can see that Ferndale is a hip, cool place to live and might consider living here.”