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Shop Local

Downtown businesses prepare for the holiday season

By Abigail Thorpe

New sidewalks, fresh storefront facades and a lively holiday spirit have replaced the torn-up streets of yesteryear. The new face of Sandpoint’s Downtown Shopping District opened up to a record summer, and shop owners are ready for an exciting holiday season.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, it’s once again that time of year to write up your gift list. This year, take advantage of the fresh face of downtown to support the local stores that make our town a charming, successful destination. This is the year to shop local!

Get ready for a Very Sandpoint Christmas. The Historic Downtown Shopping District is hosting several holiday events, making this the ultimate time to get out and shop local this season. From clothing stores to gift shops, furniture stores and children’s stores, downtown offers a bit of everything to help check off your Christmas list. “So many of us carry local artisans and makers as well; we always have our local community scattered throughout our stores,” says Shery Meekings, owner of Creations and Carousel Emporium in the Cedar Street Bridge.

Businesses will light up their windows and pull the decorations out, competing for the Chamber of Commerce’s annual window decorating contest, and you can find Santa at the Cedar Street Bridge every Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving from noon to 4pm.

The shopping season will kick off with the Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, November 27, the day after Thanksgiving. Bundle up and head to the Town Square for a Hallmark-like Christmas event to mark the season. The Suzuki String Academy will be performing along with Allegro Dance Studio. Enjoy coffee, cocoa, cider and baked goods while you watch the tree light up, and stay for a chance to see Santa—he’ll be coming down the street on a bright red fire truck!

Afterward, head out to the local restaurants for a warm meal and refreshments, and then tour the local businesses to get started early on your shopping. “For such a small town, we have such a wide variety of stores and shopping available, and great customer service,” says Deanna Harris, owner of Sharon’s Hallmark.

The next day is Small Business Saturday—a national day to get out and support small business. Sandpoint businesses will throw open their doors to shoppers, many staying open later that night and welcoming the day with store specials, door prizes, refreshments and even live entertainment.

Most of the downtown businesses will be participating, with places like Bella Terra, Carousel, Idaho Pour Authority and Sharon’s Hallmark in addition to many others offering specials or refreshments.

Downtown shops offer so much to choose from, and support from the local community is vital to their survival and the health of our downtown. “After such a tough year and being closed down for six weeks this spring, businesses really count on the holidays to get through the winter,” says Harris.

Downtown businesses employ 1,000 local residents, and the tax revenue they generate goes back to the local school systems, explains Meekings. “If we can get locals down here, it really supports our local economy, and it trickles throughout our whole community. It touches so many families.”

Main street businesses are not only vital to the local economy, they impact the entire American economy. Small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them, and over $9.5 billion would be directly returned to our economy if every U.S. family spent just $10 per month at a local business, reports Fundera.

Just $10! It’s a simple step to choose to shop local for just one—or even several—of your holiday gifts this year, and it creates a world of difference.

Heading into December, downtown shops will continue the festivities with Girls Night Out on Friday, December 4. Grab your girlfriends and head downtown, where stores will be staying open late and offering prizes, specials, appetizers and music. “We generally have a ‘shopping passport’ that night where shoppers are encouraged to visit a number of different stores and get a ‘stamp’ on their passports,” says Harris.

At the end of the evening, shoppers are invited to head to Taysty’s Wine Bar at Cedar Street Bridge. “That is the night where we truly make it exciting for our community and love on them,” says Meekings. “There are deals downtown, we're going to have Santa Claus walking around so ladies can do a photo with Santa. Our after party is going to be at Taysty’s where we’ll give away around $1,000 worth of prizes.”

For those last-minute male shoppers out there, the Downtown Shopping District will be hosting a Slackers Night Out on December 18, just a week before Christmas. The men’s night will feature last-minute shopping deals and some fun activities and specials.

In addition to special shopping events, December will welcome this year’s updated Festival of Trees—the “Tour of Trees” to benefit Kinderhaven. Local businesses will display trees, and the community is invited to wander downtown and bid on their favorite. Cedar Street Bridge and Creations will be hosting kids’ events, with giveaways and prizes, as well as a Giving Tree to provide gifts and items to special needs families.

For those individuals who are high risk and concerned about shopping around others, you can still shop local—just head out early. “If you shop early in the morning throughout November and December, you really do have the streets to yourself,” says Meekings.

So this year, forgo the big box shops and online shopping, and take the opportunity to support your local shops and community. You’ll find more interesting, unique goods, be supporting local, and have the opportunity to enjoy a fun day or night out with others to celebrate the season.

“We've had such great support, (this is the) busiest year I've seen in 12 years, and the people are loving and generous and kind. They are just building our economy, which is wonderful,” says Meekings. “These little shoulder seasons that we have, they're becoming smaller, and it's really giving small businesses an opportunity to pay our people well.”

Shopping local affects everyone—from the gift giver and receiver, to the shopkeeper, employees, the school systems and community. Local shops keep our economy thriving and our town beautiful, busy and exciting. Let’s do our part and choose to buy local this year, so our shops and community can thrive in 2021!

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