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Downtown gets in the holiday spirit

South Boston News
Patsy Owen and Peggy Ragans enjoy the holiday spread upstairs at Enchanted Surroundings.
SoVaNow.com / November 21, 2016
Downtown South Boston merchants popped popcorn, served up sausage balls, festooned the streets and welcomed Santa Claus for their 30th annual Christmas Open House Sunday afternoon.

The outlook among merchants regarding the turnout was generally positive: “It’s a big shopping day and people are obviously looking at what they plan to do in the weeks to come,” said Nookie Green, owner of Distinct Impressions.

An employee at the gift and embroidery shop said they were “slammed” all day by shoppers lured by a storewide 20 percent off sale, with some Thanksgiving and Christmas items marked down by half. Aside from the bargains, a popular draw at Distinct Impressions was the popcorn machine: “The little kids like it,” said Green.

“The colder weather gets people out, too,” said Green of the mid-November cold snap, the most brisk it’s been this holiday shopping season. “It gets people in the spirit.”

A short distance away on Main Street, Patsy Owen at Enchanted Surroundings chatted with customers as they sat around a table of appetizers, cookies, punch and other seasonal treats set up on the second floor of the furniture and antiques store. The sausage balls, made by a friend, were especially popular.

“I did the easy part,” said Owen of the holiday spread, laughing.

Christmas Open House is intended to draw people downtown, and it’s as much a feel-good event as a big sales promotion, said Owen. “Open House is really an appreciation of our customers,” said Owen. “I feel all the merchants downtown feel that way. It’s a thank-you to our customers.” By late afternoon, shoppers were still rolling into the shop, but Owen said from her perspective, the sales numbers aren’t the main point of the day: “It’s just good to see everybody,” she said. “It’s no pressure to buy. They’ll start shopping later.”

Peggy Ragans, a shopper at the store, said she enjoys Open House because it reminds her of her younger days when stores downtown would be decked out for Christmas. “I enjoyed coming downtown — they had Christmas music then, too.”

Outside, the sound of piped-in Christmas carols filled the air, and a garland heralding the onset of Christmas hung over Main Street nearby Lantor’s Ladies Boutique.

John Lantor joked that Open House is “our busiest Sunday of the year — of course, it’s our only Sunday that we’re open.” He pronounced himself pleased with the turnout: “It’s always a busy turnout.”

Merchants are keenly aware of the challenges they face in competing against big-box and online retailers that already have hit full stride with holiday shopping. Lantor acknowledged that “more stores bring more traffic” — and South Boston, like most downtowns, has its share of vacancies — “but the stores here do a good job. By and large we have good stores with good products. We all feed off of each other.”

Green, at Distinct Impressions, said the key to his business was filling a niche that the bigger retailers either can’t or won’t. “We’re a store with things you don’t see everywhere,” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to do something different than the bog box stores.”

Toward that end, South Boston retailers pitched in to offer a $100 gift certificate, good at downtown shops and restaurants, to a lucky winner. That person was Mattie Thrower, announced Tamyra Vest, executive director of Destination Downtown.

Also, kids got the chance to have their photos taken with Santa Claus, who decamped at Moving Voices for the day.



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