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Holiday jingle steady downtown
As the holiday gift-giving season nears its end, some downtown Winslow businesses have shown signs of recovering from the road construction over the past year. Some have even found the time to give back.
Despite a recovering economy and pulling out of the era of Winslow Way construction that has disturbed some businesses throughout downtown, merchants have done well over the holiday season — a time when many rely upon the annual rush in sales.
In addition to working hard for holiday sales and keeping with the spirit of giving, some merchants have even taken it upon themselves to fill requests from various Giving Trees scattered throughout downtown Winslow.
“We noticed some of (the Giving Trees) aren’t in places where people pass them constantly,” said co-owner of Dana’s Show House Terri Bryant. “We were afraid they weren’t being filled, so we found some resources to push that along to increase how much there was contributed.”
Bryant said that many of the merchants talk with each other every day and that filling the Giving Tree requests wasn’t anything formal, rather just something that merchants passed the word along to each other. Soon, some merchants were going into their back rooms and seeing what they could contribute, or they would go and purchase items themselves.
“We would go up to other peoples’ (Giving Trees) and if they have things we can supply or buy, we go out and get them,” said Susan Lawrence, manager of Heart on Winslow Way. “(The trees) are dispersed, and so a lot of the merchants have been grabbing things and have been filling them ourselves.”
Upon noticing that some of the Giving Trees were not shedding enough requests from their branches, Lawrence, along with Terry Bryant of Dana’s Show House, began finding ways that their stores could fill the requests, and if not, then they ended up purchasing items themselves.
Lawrence and Bryant then went to Udo Wald of the kayak store Back of Beyond Explorations with Giving Tree requests they thought he might be able to help with.
“I contributed, socks and stuff from the store,” Wald said. “I just gave it. Not leftover stuff, but stuff people can use.”
The Giving Trees were placed in various locations and stores along Winslow Way over the holiday season by the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association. The branches of the trees held requests for items and donations for a number of local charities and nonprofits. The trees will be in place until Christmas Eve, leaving one remaining day for the community to fill requests that benefit local and good causes.
“It’s the first year that we’ve had the Giving Trees, and I think it will take a while for it to catch on,” Bryant said.
Eagle Harbor Books also has its own Giving Tree to support Helpline House.
“We have a history of working with Helpline House,” said Bob Davis, the store’s sales manager. “Customers left (purchased items) with us. Most of (the requests) were books.”
Customers could purchase and leave the items at the bookstore where staff would wrap them. Money received from the purchased Giving Tree items will be converted into gift certificates for Helpline House to use.
Davis said that sales at the store have been stable over the holiday season, noting that the two weeks before Christmas are usually the busiest time during the holiday season.
“It appears that sales have been picking up … it’s comparable to last year,” Davis said. “Historically we’ve been very pleased with the support from the island. In summer, our customers are a lot of vacationers. Now our customers are going to be from the island.”
Eagle Harbor Books has been promoting “buying local” on its Twitter and Facebook pages in recent weeks, battling the trend to buy gifts online. Davis said that the decrease in construction activity has helped business during this time as well.
“We are grateful to say that holiday sales are slightly higher than last year — about 2 percent,” said Terry Arndt, co-owner of Paper Products Etc. “We had hoped for higher sales, as every retailer does, but considering the national economic climate and the drop in sales from the construction project the past several months, we are happy to see our store buzzing with customers again.”
Arndt addressed the City Council in November, speaking for a number of downtown merchants who felt that the construction had caused too much of a disturbance to sales. The merchants were hoping that the holidays would help them recover.
“The best thing I am hearing is that (downtown businesses’) numbers are at least the same, if not slightly up from last year,” said Andie Mackin, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association. “It is always a challenge to keep our islanders coming downtown when the inclination is to figure that it will be cheaper at the mall or at that unidentified big box store up on the plateau in Poulsbo. People continue to be surprised at what they do find in downtown Winslow, and at a reasonable price.”