Carlisle store owners pleased with Small Business Saturday event
Nov 25, 2012 (Menafn - The Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Black Friday and "Gray Thursday" had shoppers at the big-box stores clamoring for drastically discounted big ticket items. "Santa Comes to Town," the kickoff event to the holiday season sponsored by the Downtown Carlisle Association, had shoppers strolling, chatting and enjoying refreshments at a variety of downtown businesses.
"It's like anti-Black Friday," said Sarah Taby, co-owner of Miss Ruth's Time Bomb.
She added that customers did not fight each other to get the bargains, and instead seemed to be shopping with each other and enjoying the day.
Kathy Smith of Carlisle had a similar thought as she visited History on High with her family. "We've hit a couple of different stores," she said. "It's nice to get away from the busyness of the mall."
That's not to say downtown wasn't active Saturday. The event included a variety of free activities, starting with doughnuts with Santa at the Comfort Suites and ending with a concert by The Drifters and The Marcels at the Carlisle Theatre in the evening.
In between, visitors enjoyed carriage rides, visits with Santa, the tree-lighting ceremony and the hospitality of downtown merchants. Megan Matzner, program coordinator for DCA, said the event was purposely matched to Small Business Saturday to give a boost to local businesses.
"The small businesses downtown here have been seeing a lot of new faces, which is wonderful," she said.
The Carlisle Arts Learning Center offered plenty to look at -- and purchase -- in its Hanover Street gallery. Cathy Stone, gallery coordinator, said the pace of visitors throughout the day had been manageable. "It's been steady. There's never been a moment that it was like a bus let out," she said.
Pat Craig of Pat Craig Studios on West Pomfret Street said the businesses on her block were having a great day. "We're excited. I think it's going very, very well," she said.
Craig said people have told her in the past that the downtown merchants didn't participate in Black Friday events. Some were even closed. But that, she said, is changing. "Our Black Friday yesterday was fantastic," she said.
Up at K. Marie & Company on Hanover Street, the Black Friday specials were extended throughout the weekend to give people more incentive to support local businesses. Owner Kristen Trautman would like to see the DCA event repeated next year. "It gives everyone a chance to come down and have some fun," she said.
Events like those sponsored by DCA give small businesses a boost as they try to draw shoppers from the big boxes and the malls.
"As business owners, we need to reach out and give people really good reasons to come downtown," she said. "Our angle is hospitality. That's what we can do as boutique businesses."
Around the corner from Pat Craig's shop, Lisa Milos of Carlisle was putting shopping bags into her car. She had taken visitors, Julia Dingle and Mindy Milos-Dale, both of Detroit, on a small business tour of the county on Saturday. They had been to Meadowbrooke Gourds and the Holiday Craft and Fine Art Show at the Carlisle Expo Center before arriving at the grand reopening of Miss Ruth's Time Bomb on High Street.
They were enthusiastic about the shops they had visited, which exhibited the very type of hospitality Craig had described. "I wish we had these places in Michigan," Dingle said.
Miss Ruth's Time Bomb reopened last month after closing in May 2011 when building owners demolished the structure to rebuild it as an eco-friendly landmark. The newly renovated space appears double in size to the old one and, on Saturday, it was filled with shoppers enjoying refreshments and music from a DJ with actual turntables.
Taby and co-owner David Bender said coordinating the grand opening with the DCA event and Small Business Saturday seemed like a good idea, especially since there were tasks to be finished that prevented the grand opening from being held earlier.
"We wanted to make sure we had everything finished before we sealed a date," Bender said.
Jeff Wood at the Whistlestop Bookshop finally had a chance to sit down behind his small counter. Stories with Mrs. Claus had just finished upstairs and there were relatively few shoppers in the store compared to earlier in the day. "It was very successful," he said of the Santa Comes to Town event. "It was a well-run program from the Downtown Carlisle Association."
This weekend is always a busy time of year for Wood, though usually the signs of the upcoming holidays begin to show weeks before Thanksgiving. Yet, days like Saturday offer a spark. "It's always been a good acceleration of the Christmas season," he said.
Stephanie Patterson Gilbert, owner of Georgie Lou's Retro Candy and Gifts said it's hard to know exactly what brings people in, but it could be that Small Business Saturday is starting to make a difference. "It might be that it's finally been around long enough that it's taking hold," she said.
Shopping aside, there was one very important appointment left for Smith and her family. While they were walking up the street, they had seen Santa up at the square. "We're going to catch up with him," she said.
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