By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — The volunteers who staff the city’s information booth on Essex Street have a new, bigger and better structure to operate out of this month.
The 9-by-12-foot structure — complete with electricity, cabinets and storage space — was installed on the pedestrian mall Saturday morning.
The booth was built by Tom St. Pierre and Michael Lutrzykowski, Salem’s building inspector and assistant building inspector. It replaces the temporary, portable booth the city used each year, provided by Fiesta Shows.
Salem Main Streets manager Kylie Sullivan called the new structure “a tremendous upgrade.” They now have more space, she said, and a dry location to store brochures and other materials.
“Our volunteers are thrilled and excited,” Sullivan said. “Overall, it’s a fantastic improvement ... We’re really looking forward to having a better home.”
Each October, volunteers take turns staffing the booth at Essex and Washington streets, answering visitors’ questions, giving directions and distributing maps and brochures to the thousands of people that flood Salem each October.
St. Pierre and Lutrzykowski spent their own time, off the clock, making the new booth, Sullivan said.
The two building inspectors, however, are very bashful about talking about the endeavor or taking any credit.
“What was there (the old info booth) didn’t represent the city well,” said Lutrzykowski. “Myself and Tom (St. Pierre) noticed that and I think others did too.”
Lutrzykowski designed the booth and he and St. Pierre built it in roughly two weeks using materials paid for with a grant, he said.
It’s a saltbox-style structure, with an overhang in front. The booth is wired for electricity and will connect to a power hookup on Essex Street. It’s big enough to fit four to six people, he said.
Aggregate Industries of Salem provided a truck and covered the costs of installing the booth on Essex Street Saturday morning, Lutrzykowski said.
The booth is meant to be a bookend to the National Park Service’s visitors center on the other end of Essex Street, said Sullivan. This year’s volunteer roster has about 70 people on it.
With the NPS visitors center closed by the government shutdown, Destination Salem, the city’s tourism office, has set up an ad-hoc, volunteer-staffed tent in front of the NPS visitors center to provide information to tourists.
Many of the Main Streets information booth volunteers have been working at both sites this month, Sullivan said.
The Main Streets booth is staffed each October, beginning the night of the Haunted Happenings parade through Halloween. Volunteers are there Friday afternoons, Saturdays, Sundays and today, Columbus Day.
They’re seeing increased traffic this year, Sullivan said. Even though last weekend was rainy, booth volunteers talked with 2,000 people.
“We’re very thankful (for the new booth),” Sullivan said. “We’re happy to have an improved gateway to greet people.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.