Opinion

What holidays mean to merchants

Did you ever wonder what “home for the holidays” means to the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker as well as the florist, the postal worker, and others who help you keep your holiday traditions?

Holiday shoppers expect sparkling lights, familiar happy music, warm greetings, and perhaps some hot cider and extra special gift-wrapping. But how does the shop owner or worker feel about the holiday season?

A recent stroll in downtown Winslow to ask that question reveals some expected answers, but also the unexpected.

“Home for the holidays” means not going home for the butcher (aka the meat cutter). However, this woman with 28 years of experience as a meat cutter enjoys preparing those extra special cuts for your Christmas or Hanukah dinner, such as rack of lamb or those “real special” pork crowns. The holidays are a very busy time, but a happy time and she tries to get it “just right” for her customers.

The thoughtful baker said the holidays bring many rewards and happiness to all the workers at the bakery because they “very clearly are able to be part of their customers’ holiday preparations and enjoyment.”

As you might expect, the holiday season is the busiest, best and most fun time of the year for the candle shop. Customers come in with an infectious bounce in their step. In the old days, small candles in special clips lighted Yuletide trees in Sweden, the ancestral home of the shop owner. Since then, the golden lights of candles have sparkled our Decembers.

The familiar figure of the postal worker walking along Winslow Way overloaded with packages signals that the gift-giving season is in progress.

He says it makes him happy to deliver the packages and cards on time knowing that his customers appreciate his service during these sometimes-hectic holidays. While your packages are a professional priority, his personal priority is the holiday happiness enjoyed by his grandchildren.

One thinks of golden bangles or shimmering pearls as the vision for the holidays when considering the jewelry store.

Unexpectedly, the jeweler said “home for the holidays” means coming home to Bainbridge Island forever so she doesn’t have to take the holiday ferry from Seattle to be home with her family. She lives on the island now and finds it heartwarming when customers who are home for the holidays come in to her store year after year to show off their new babies and growing kids.

The jeweler, along with the gentle florist, enjoys the tradition of families and college kids coming downtown to say hello to friends working in Winslow’s shops.

Several merchants became nostalgic when asked what the holidays mean to them. Most mentioned the wonderful feeling of warmth and connection that comes with the gathering hubbub of family.

The art gallery artist/manager described her childhood Christmas with a large family gathering at grandma’s Wisconsin home where mouth-watering smells of food preparation drifted from the kitchen. And the turkey was cooked in the pressure cooker! Everyone, even the children, got a brandy Alexander along with cold roast tenderloin and shrimp in the evening after a day of opening gifts. She also has fond memories of the children sliding down the three-story laundry shoot.

Similarly, the dry goods storeowner cherishes memories of the plentiful and tasty homemade food and candy with late night card games when all the children got to stay up past their bedtimes to join the fun.

To the furniture merchant, old memories of great aunt Tante Louise and the warmth and comfort of having all the people he loved the most with him is his idea of what “home for the holidays” means.

Now it means being on Bainbridge Island for 25 years where “it feels just right. The climate is just right. the people are just right and the holidays are just right!”

For the realtor, he enjoys a strong tradition of a holiday dinner where the same dishes are made the same way – no experimental foods for this extended family! To her, “home for the holidays” on Bainbridge means a slower time to savor the art tours, to enjoy the festive decorations and to offer Santa photos to customers.

What do the holidays mean to you? When you come to downtown Winslow for the succulent roast, the creamy pumpkin pie and the glowing candles, share your holiday memories with the folks who serve you through the year. Your community’s merchants help, as the florist explains, “bring brightness into the dark winter with lights and decorations” and a joyful spirit of good will and hope.

Jan Stanton is a board member of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association.

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