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Of two minds on tax holiday

Of life’s two constants, death and taxes, one took a holiday this weekend. The response was mixed.

The unofficially-annual Massachusetts sales tax holiday lifted the 6.25 percent surcharge Saturday and Sunday, a tradition begun by legislators in 2004 in hopes of giving businesses a mid-summer shot in the arm.

For Bob Perry of Bicycles Unlimited on High Street, the benefit is mostly to shoppers.

“Every year we seem to do a month’s worth of business in a day, but you have to offset that with the fact that the week or two leading up to it you’re only doing half of your normal business, because everybody waits. They know it’s coming,” Perry said.

Sales may or may not net out in his favor, spurred along by added price cuts, but in the end Perry expects the 30 bikes he sells on Saturdays during the tax-free weekend would leave the shelves anyway.

“It’s a deal for the consumer. The business owner, if you factor in the fatigue of being open all this time and having to deal with the extra amount of business, it’s a wash for us,” Perry said.

Perry kept his shop open on Sunday to deal with the leftover volume from Saturday, while many downtown businesses held to their usual Sunday closure.

On Federal Street, The Music Store was not busy on Sunday afternoon. Owner Gene LaCoy said Saturday had been relatively busy, but he couldn’t be sure the net effect was positive.

People tend to hold off on purchases if they know the tax holiday is coming and the August date may have dampened his July anniversary sale in past years, he said. Last year, he shifted his postcard marketing efforts to the sales tax holiday over the anniversary sale, and did almost a month’s worth of business in a single day, but it’s hard to compare.

“I don’t know how much it really helps, if it does, I can’t really tell for sure,” LaCoy said.

Further along the street, another relatively large expense generally under the $2,500 cut-off point for the tax cut sold well. “It was great, we had a really busy day,” said Tire Warehouse manager Jarad Weeks. The sales tax holiday is the only weekend of the year the shop opens on a Sunday, Weeks said, although he theorized that the expectation it would be closed kept Sunday business slow.

At the bike shop, customer Jennifer Schafer of Greenfield said she was going to put off her purchase of a bike shoe and pedal clip set until the following day, but changed her mind when Perry reminded her Sunday was tax free.

Another customer, Roy of Greenfield, who didn’t wish to give his last name, picked up his purchase of a Surly Moonlander fat-tire bicycle Sunday afternoon. With the bicycle priced at the $2,500 cutoff for the sales tax break, Roy said the tax holiday kept his money in Greenfield, rather than its tax-free neighbor.

“The thing here is that, especially here in Greenfield, heading over to New Hampshire is no big deal, if we didn’t have the tax-free weekend I would be going over the line to buy in New Hampshire and then these guys would be losing out,” he said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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