Remember local businesses after Dec. 26 - BlueStone Press
January 16, 2019
Local Business

Remember local businesses after Dec. 26

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It’s safe to wager that aside from those escaping to tropical climes, January and February fall pretty low on the list of favorite months for locals. There are a lot of factors: freezing temperatures, constant shoveling, scraping and salting, and light that – aside from a few brilliant days – tends to be dull, gray and seen through a filter of snow, sleet or freezing rain. If January and February were king and queen of the calendar, they’d be evil monarchs.

No one feels January and February’s reign of absolute tyranny more then the local businesses. Remember them? Those wonderful shopkeepers you visited in the glittering month of December to fill your “shop local” bags with gifts for friends, family and, if we’re being honest, ourselves? Those tables at local eateries you gathered around with friends to toast the season or find respite in a nourishing bowl of soup to refuel you for … more shopping? Yes? Good. They need your help.

Owner Jesse Post of Postmark Books reports that, come January, sales drop to about a quarter of what they were over the holiday shopping period.

“So I looked up sales to confirm, and yeah, if you include late November in ‘holiday sales,’ January tends to be between 25 percent of that holiday total,” she said. “On the one hand, we expect this – the holidays are the best time of year for retail, and we'd never expect a normal month to match it. On the other hand, the January dip is something we always try to turn around as much as we can to keep business strong. The main thing we do is reach out to our customers and let them know we've got the kettle on – it’s cold, friends and family have gone back home, work has started up again, but at Postmark you can come in for a warm-up and some conversation, pet the cat, and watch the snow fall outside. And the main thing is that after weeks of thinking of everyone else you can finally grab a book for yourself and indulge in some ‘me’ time.”

While January may not be a favorite month, it is certainly an ideal month to read. Few things are more satisfying than settling in under blankets, warm beverage in hand, and starting in on a good, new book. The only thing that surpasses a good book, is a good book club to talk about it with, so why not start one? Post, who is a superb recommender of books if you need help getting the ball rolling, is even happy to host it.

Dennis Nutley at Green Cottage notes that there is a big drop after Christmas. To soften the landing, Green Cottage holds an annual half-price ornament sale, which starts Dec. 26, and he has noticed over the years some residual gift buying for forgotten parties between Christmas and the new year … The combination of these two factors helps, as Nutley says. Nutley points out the power of flowers as a tonic to these harsh months. “Flowers are constant reminders of what time of year it is. I may not remember someone’s actual anniversary, but I will remember that the bride carried peonies, and as June rolls around I'll know to say ‘Happy Anniversary.’ Economically, flowers certainly help to get us through the dead of winter. To many of my customers fresh flowers are as important as milk and a full tank of gas when snow is in the forecast.”

The economic dip is not confined to gift stores alone. Buffy Gribbon, proprietor of the High Falls Café (along with hubby Brian) reports that business goes down by about a quarter after the holidays.

“The first week after New Year's is the biggest hit as people are ‘partied and tapped out’ financially,” says Gribbon. “We will actually shut down for that first week this year and take some time off … we have never done this, so we will see how it goes.” In order to keep the business going (and growing!) Gribbon says that the secret of their success is “to always have some kind of event going on. We have worked hard to create a community environment with some live music, weekly dinner specials and trivia nights. It has always been important for us to give back and the community notices this. We host many school events; this helps us give back a bit while also bringing some new faces and still keeps things going. Hosting fundraisers is also an important key to this and provides a way to allow for funds to be raised for things that might not otherwise get the help. We have had big ones for Hurricane Katrina, Family of Woodstock (and) the Stone Ridge Library. Plus smaller events like raising funds for a few families who have lost their homes to fire or have a sick child in need. These things have helped us gain respect locally and also allow us to feel good about donating back. We are raising our family here, too, so this is important.”

While it may take putting on an extra layer and shuffling through the snow, do make the effort to get out and support the local businesses around you. Book that haircut even though you’ll be wearing a hat, or make a reservation and exchange gifts with the friend you didn’t get a chance to see over the holidays … It will ease the pain of the dead of winter for you and your favorite business.

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