BERLIN– Local merchants are hoping area residents will remember to shop small this holiday season.
Berlin, home to dozens of small businesses in its historic downtown commercial district, was a hive of activity Black Friday and Small Business Saturday as merchants pulled out all the stops to draw in customers. In the wake of slow fall season, hampered by inclement weather cancellations of two key events, shopkeepers say a healthy holiday shopping season is critical to keeping their storefronts open.
“Supporting local businesses during the holidays is crucial for Berlin, especially when many of our events were canceled due to rain,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director. “It offers a much-needed boost to the local economy and ensures survival of cherished local establishments.”
While inclement weather prompted the cancelation of multiple special events in town, merchants were pleased with a strong kick off to the holiday shopping season this past weekend.
“We had lots of people,” said Olga Kozhevnikova of World of Toys. “Business wise we did little bit less than last year. We are going around 6% down compared to last year. It’s not too bad at all! We are lucky!”
The Church Mouse saw $1,124 in sales on Friday and Saturday. The thrift shop’s earnings will allow it to support the Samaritan Shelter, Worcester GOLD, Toys for Tots and other causes this winter.
Emily Vocke, owner of Heart of Gold, said it was an awesome weekend.
“It’s always my favorite weekend of the year to kick off the holiday season and this year was no different,” she said. “It was great to see so many visitors to our sweet town as well as all of our locals that support us all year long. Shopping small is essential for our community to thrive and I truly feel like our customers understand just how important it is.”
Vocke is also proud of the fact that Berlin’s business community is made up of so many women-owned establishments. Wells agreed.
“Our downtown thrives with the energy of diverse, women-owned businesses,” she said. “Women are the heart and soul of the downtown business community.”
One of those women is Larnet St. Amant, who experienced her first Black Friday as a shop owner last week. She opened British Rose on Main Street this spring after working 40 years in the retail business. She was thrilled when she found an opportunity to open her own shop in partnership with her sister.
“When you support small business you’re supporting someone’s dream,” she said.
She said what makes Berlin so special is the fact that its merchants work together to ensure shoppers, whether they’re visitors or locals, have an experience every time they come to Berlin.
“I love our business community,” she said. “It’s a group of hardworking women who all support each other.”
This year, businesses banded together to extend shopping hours for the holiday season with the new “Sip & Shop” promotion on Fridays. Shops have extended Friday evening hours until 8 p.m. to give visitors more time to enjoy the town’s festive holiday atmosphere while exploring the downtown’s array of shops. Within their shops, merchants are offering free tastings of local wines, mead and craft beers.
“We hope this will bring even more joy to the holiday shopping experience and encourage shoppers to explore the magic of downtown,” Wells said.
Ryan Nellans, executive director of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, said another cooperative effort meant to support local businesses was a new display in the “Garrett Journal” window across from the Atlantic Hotel. The display features products made by 30 different artists, authors and craftsmen in Berlin. The window display contains spirits from Forgotten 50 Distilling, mead from the Buzz Meadery, clothing from Heart of Gold, olive oil from Una Bella Salute and dozens of other products made in Berlin.
“Not everyone has a storefront on Main Street,” Nellans said. “This is just a celebration of what small businesses in Berlin can do.”
He believes both merchants and shoppers are looking forward to December in Berlin.
“The holiday season for merchants today is exactly what it was for people that celebrated similar holidays hundreds of years ago,” Nellans said. “It’s the last big push before we all hide away and hibernate through the cold, slow winter months. It’s something bright and happy to look forward to in the cold gloom, and an opportunity to fortify those social bonds with friends and family that carry us through to spring.”
For the month of December, Berlin will celebrate the season with a variety of special activities. In addition to Sip and Shop on Friday evenings, Merry Marketplace will feature vendors on Artisans Green Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. The town will also offer free horse-drawn carriage rides from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23. In addition, children can visit Santa at Kringle Kottage between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. each weekend through Dec. 23.
The town will host its Christmas parade on Dec. 7 and a Hanukkah celebration at The Inn Berlin on Dec. 14.