Downtown Buchanan dresses up for the holidaysPublished 10:36am Monday, November 30, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
BUCHANAN – For retailers everywhere Thanksgiving weekend is all about the shopping.
Store prices dropped in an effort to fuel consumerism this weekend and early reports indicate shoppers responded even if just to search for bottom line deals.
But in Buchanan Saturday night, the idea was to fuel something else: the holiday spirit. The city’s downtown held what was described as a “low key, winter kickoff event.”
Low key maybe, but the city’s downtown did indeed come to life, with crowds filling each of its shops, stopping in one after another and getting a good look at what each has to offer this holiday season along with some good eats, good wine and plenty of conversation.
“Happy,” said Alan Robandt about the turnout, whose downtown store featured hors d’oeuvres and wine as well as a special collection of books by bookseller Kurt Gippert along with his regular collection of art and antiques.
“This is good,” he said. What is the turnout he’d expected?
“Oh god, beyond,” Robandt added.
The city’s downtown merchants, along with support from city officials and the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce have been keeping a steady run of events in an effort to bring attention and business to Buchanan.
Saturday night’s event was an important step in those efforts – as its purpose was to show Buchanan as a place to be all year long.
“It is a four-season event,” said Monroe Lemay, executive director of the chamber of commerce. The event is a means of marketing the city as a place residents and visitors don’t have to count out in the winter time.
That holiday spirit was certainly in the air as plenty of people moved through stores like FRONT, which were decorated for the season and lights lit up the downtown streets.
“If you make it stimulating,” Robandt said. “If you make it interesting … people will come.”
And though Robandt and other store owners were visibly busy writing up sales and bagging what might make for a few holiday gifts this year, the goal of getting people to come and visit downtown was also seen as a goal reached.
“The vote is by the body count,” Robandt said.
Justin Brown offered a holiday reception along with the store’s collection of shoes, boots and handbags, the Buchanan Art Center offered special kids programming and a gallery reception as well as pottery for sale, and Sweetie’s Sweet Shop served up, well sweets.
“The interest and the feedback we’ve had all day long has been incredible,” said Steve Raglin, whose SL Consignment Gallery joined forces with Fernwood Botanical Garden to serve up cider and snacks and display special items brought in by Fernwood along with the store’s regular collection.
The weekend was just the latest in a series of similar receptions the city has held to promote its business community and the city itself. Raglin said each event has been an overall success and interest is growing.
In addition to visitors from surrounding cities Saturday night, including Three Oaks and Niles, Raglin said he’s been seeing more and more local residents come out to support the effort and the city’s business owners.
“Tonight is really just another way of introducing ourselves and Buchanan to those who are not aware of it,” he said. “People have been very dedicated to these events. They really enjoy it.”