While something wicked was taking place on State Street in Schenectady the last two weeks, surrounding downtown business were witnessing something pleasant.
With “Wicked” at Proctors for 16 shows over 11 days, theater-goers flooded downtown Schenectady, much to the delight of local restaurants. Area business owners say Proctors serves as an engine for business downtown, and the play centered on the witches of Oz provided a welcome boost in recent days.
“Proctors drives business in downtown Schenectady, I believe,” said Adam Keeler, a server at Ambition Café on Jay Street. “We do well otherwise, but on days there’s a show we definitely see a big increase in business.”
The prequel to “The Wizard of Oz” ran at Proctors from March 1 through Sunday. The show’s popularity prompted Proctors to offer a day-of ticket lottery, where those interested could enter to win a chance to buy one or two orchestra seat tickets for only $25 each.
This year marked the third time “Wicked” has come to Proctors. The touring musical production previously made stops in Schenectady in December 2009 and November 2012.
On Sunday, prior to a 1 p.m. matinee, Keeler said Ambition did almost double its usual business. Oftentimes, he said, cast members will come through either between shows or during their stay in Schenectady.
In addition, the restaurant typically remains open for dinner only when Proctors has a show in town, providing yet another supplemental source of income.
Proctors tends to bring more people downtown regardless of what’s showing, Keeler said, but typically there are about 10 high-profile performances each year, such as “Wicked,” that provide a more noticeable boost in business.
Christopher Calhoun, a manager at More Perreca’s Italian bakery and café, said Proctors tends to increase business by about 15 or 20 percent.
“It’s always good to have a show in town,” he said.
Business owners didn’t necessarily think “Wicked” brought them more traffic than other big-name shows, but all agreed that the nearby theater is consistently helpful in attracting customers to downtown.
While restaurants reap the benefits of patrons looking for dinner and a show, retailers generally don’t get the same revenue boost from a big production, said Richard Mare, president of the Jay Street Business Association.
He attributed that largely to attendees not wanting to carry their purchases into the theater, but noted that when there’s a matinee, or in the summer when it’s warmer out, visitors will spend more time to peruse the shops.
“We’ll see people coming and going, or occasionally cast members will stop in and wander around,” said Mare, owner of Downtown Designs. “But typically, the people that patronize shows don’t do any shopping.”