Now Maastricht’s carnival is over for this year, Frans Hanneman can take time to catch his breath. In the run-up to the big fiesta, his specialist make-up and face-painting shop, StarMagic, puts in a lot of overtime, especially now it’s moved from a nearby village into downtown Maastricht, and occupies a building next to the Roej Neus carnival shop.
A few years ago, Frans surveyed where his customers came from and found that about 70% were from Maastricht. So it was logical for his shop to be closer to where they live. Frans presented his requirements at a consultation session held by Maastricht’s Business Contact Centre and he seized the opportunity to open a pop-up store in Wycker Brugstraat, on the east side of the River Meuse. At first, there were a few things he needed to get used to. “A customer from Maastricht told me that I shouldn’t play carnival music from the town of Kerkrade. And I had to adapt my dialect vocabulary to how they talk in Maastricht. We did pretty good business that season, but I soon realised that we actually needed to be on the other side of the river, in the city centre.”
Various possibilities were discussed during a follow-up session with the Business Contact Centre. The most attractive option was to move into a shop in Grote Gracht Street, next to the Roej Neus (“Red Nose”) carnival shop. “The synergy with the neighbours has been great,” says Frans. “We refer customers to one another. People go to Roej Neus for a carnival costume and then come to us for their face paint.”
Having your shop in Maastricht has other advantages too: “The city is lively and bustling with energy. People come in out of curiosity – our clientele is very diverse. And customers sometimes give me new ideas too. Our face-painting courses have never been as popular as this year. That’s spin-off from the shop.”
So the prospects are excellent, says Frans. Even so, there are some challenges. “We’re a seasonal business, so the period leading up to carnival is vital for us. Roej Neus is open all year round, so we are also open four days a week in summer. We’re not busy then, but you can sort of ‘sow the seeds’ for the winter season. Until recently, especially in summer, we were able to get business from the many day-trippers walking in from the car park at Cabergerweg via Grote Gracht Street and on into the centre. But with the advent of the Sphinx Quarter development that route has changed and pedestrians now access the city centre via Boschstraat. So unfortunately, we’ve also had fewer passers-by dropping in during the carnival season too.”
Nevertheless, Frans Hanneman remains optimistic. “We’re a specialist retailer. It’s important for the municipality and the other businesses for the city centre to have shops like ours, in addition to all the chain stores that it has. My lease will soon be ending, so I’ll be talking to the Business Contact Centre again. Perhaps they can come up with different premises for me, and otherwise I might decide to have a pop-up store in a different location each year.” But Frans first needs to see how the current season goes. In any case, his daughter has given him a pair of “happy socks” adorned with four-leaf clovers to bring him luck.