Local holiday events coincide with Small Business Saturday
With the frenzy of Black Friday a day in the past, communities across the region found ways to attract locals to hometown businesses for Small Business Saturday.
Norwich held its Winterfest Parade. New London hosted the Celebration of Lights and Song. East Lyme welcomed visitors to Niantic Main Street’s Holiday Stroll.
Amid the excitement of caroling, tree lightings and visits from Santa, businesses offered a variety of special discounts and incentives.
Tony Suarez, owner of Northern Light Gems on State Street in New London, had advertised a one-hour sale with 60 percent off everything in the store. Customers lined up outside before the doors opened at 11 a.m.
“It was huge. You would have thought we were Best Buy selling PlayStations,” Suarez said. “It’s been absolutely amazing and far exceeded my expectations.”
On Bank Street, The Custom House Maritime Museum on Bank Street offered 20 percent off gift shop items along with cookies and hot cider. Muddy Waters Café was giving away coffee with the purchase of a breakfast sandwich. The Marquee Gallery on State Street offered a 5 percent discount on the current show featuring paintings by the late Gerard Doudera.
Early Saturday afternoon, store owners in Niantic similarly were gearing up in anticipation of the crowds.
With an eye-catching window display featuring a mannequin covered with antique pins collected by the grandmother of store owner Sharon Egan, employees at the family-owned Anna Pearls Curiosities were coming off a bustling Black Friday.
“It was incredible yesterday, a nice surprise,” store employee Erin O’Connell said.
The vintage boutique shop offers jewelry, accessories and collectibles, and on Saturday offered 10 percent off all Christmas-related items. The shop also prepared gift bags for those who scored special snowflakes given out during a snow flake drop, which featured discounts and giveaways from local shops and restaurants.
Nearby, Artisan Framing & Gallery owner Denise Thompson, less dependent on the whims of the holiday shopping season, prepared a tray of cookies and a smile.
Despite intermittent rain, downtown Mystic was flooded with shoppers, at one point filling the parking lot outside the Mystic Arts Center to capacity.
Bank Square Books offered free totes, wine and donuts to visitors. There was a smattering of offerings among the downtown businesses.
New London Main Street Executive Director Annah Perch said the city’s annual holiday event was held in coordination with Small Business Saturday in an effort to provide a boost to local retailers and restaurants who depend on locals to keep them alive.
The slogan for the day was “shop small.”
The afternoon and evening in New London were filled with a host of activities — a mix of music and youth events that ended with a tree lighting led by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio.
At Parade Plaza, children signed letters to Santa while families gathered for a performance by Steve Elci & Friends and later caroling led by the Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School chorus.
At the historic Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, families waited in line for a photo with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Santa Claus turned out to be a frightening experience for 1-year-old Kristina Spickerman and her brother Kristopher, 2. The two cried and scrambled for the door of the schoolhouse before being offered a free book, courtesy of Whale’s Tales Book Bank, on their way out.
The two had calmed by the time caroling started at nearby Parade Plaza.
Niantic’s event took on special meaning this year with the tree lighting at Liberty Green held in honor of Madeline “Maddie” Guarraia, a 9-year-old with cancer who, with the help of the community, was celebrating an early Christmas this weekend.
Perch said New London’s event was a collaborative effort of New London Main Street, New London Youth Affairs, the Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School and main sponsorship by the New London law firm Suisman Shapiro.