KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A handful of downtown Kalamazoo businesses are staying open late Friday for an inaugural event.

Local retailers approached the Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center about having an extended-hours event to bring more patrons and visitors to downtown. As a result, the first-ever Moonlight Madness features a total of 26 downtown businesses — 16 shops and 10 restaurants — open until at least 11 p.m. with special discounts. Alongside a Holly Jolly Trolley and Santa’s Workshop at the Radisson, most of the participants are in a one-block radius.

Organizers with KELC expect this to be an indicator of how the local economy is shaping up.

“Entering (Moonlight Madness) in the holiday season allows us to then — year-round, almost — create little events, pop-up events, maybe, of getting people downtown later and more money put back into the downtown (economy),” program director Olivia Darmos said.

“Any opportunity to get the small businesses exposure to the public is great, anything we can do for them,” event manager Meghan Clarke said.

Bee Joyful Shop owner and founder Jessica Thompson was a part of the group of retailers that approached KELC with the idea for Moonlight Madness.

“There was a big group of us, and we all said, ‘We want to do more things to get the community involved in downtown,'” Thompson added.

She said there is one main reason she has to close at 5 p.m. on Sundays and 6 p.m. the other six days of the week.

“I’d love to stay open a little bit later, but staffing is difficult,” she explained.

Though their Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop is one of the retailers that open later, Tom and Heather Holmer say this time of year is a prime opportunity.

“Regardless of the state of the economy, if you’re a small business, the holiday season is a big one,” Tom Holmer said. “The bills get paid.”

Plus, Thompson and the Holmers all say they get at least double the customer volume just during one event.

“With Art Hop, we stay opened until 8, which we love. We see a lot more foot traffic walking around, especially the central commons area,” Thompson explained.

The 26 businesses are eager to see how Moonlight Madness will make its mark on the local market.

“I think this can show a lot of retailers that the longer you’re open, the more opportunities you’ll have,” Tom Holmer said. “You’ve got to build your clients over time for those late hours.”

“Everybody needs to come out tonight so that we can see: Is this something that our community wants from us?” Thompson said. “I’m excited about it. I would love to offer that to more people as well.”