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A happy ‘wrap’ for Blackstone Valley Christmas shopping

By Rod Lee

Kathy Tonry of Katalina’s Boutique apparently knows how to build on the momentum created by the recent “Shop Small Saturday” event in downtown Whitinsville and the “First Holiday Night and Santa Parade” in Uxbridge—held on back-to-back weekends.

Ms. Tonry’s idea is a first-ever “Holiday Shopping Scavenger Hunt” to be held on Saturday, December 9th starting at 10:00 a.m. Nineteen businesses are involved, in Sutton, So. Grafton, Northbridge, Whitinsville and Linwood.

Each business is offering holiday specials, in some cases discounts and in some instances enter-to-win. All shoppers who visit ten or more locations are eligible for the grand-raffle prize drawing provided that they get their “Holiday Shopping Scavenger Hunt” passport stamped. The grand-raffle prize is what Ms. Tonry describes as an “awesome basket” featuring a $150 snowman from Vallaincourt Folk Art and other goodies.

The passport must be returned to Katalina’s Boutique on Providence Road in Northbridge by 4:30 p.m.

As for what went before the Holiday Shopping Scavenger Hunt, it is obvious that American Express did merchants including those on Church St. in Whitinsville a huge favor by launching the idea of “Shop Small Saturday” in 2010. It is also obvious that neighboring Uxbridge has been thinking even bigger for even longer, with its “First Holiday Night and Santa Parade with Fireworks,” the 20th-anniversary edition of which took place on December 2nd.

“Everybody’s ready,” Pat Benoit, the personable owner of Rita’s on South Main St. in Uxbridge, said as she prepared for the event. Ms. Benoit certainly was all set. Rita’s—a dollar store, home décor and gifts emporium rolled into one—has had Christmas-themed merchandise out since November 1st and “it’s selling like crazy,” she said. Especially “cars and Patriots stuff.”

That “First Night” in Uxbridge has grown impressively since its own launch in 1997 is evidenced by the plethora of activities that were scheduled to be part of the celebration. Ingredients included “Fire of the Falls,” sponsored by Revell Lawn & Landscape, Revell Firewood and J&D Revell and Sons; “holiday strolls through historic Capron Falls Park,” sponsored by Theme In A Basket; a “Trackless Train Ride,” sponsored by Belanger Brothers LLC and featuring a visit with the “Angel Hair Alpacas” at Arthur R. Taft Memorial Park on Mendon St.; an appearance by the “Blackstone Valley Holiday Carillons” in the downtown area and the “Very Merry Dickens Carolers” going door-to-door; and “Mrs. Claus’s countdown to Christmas Raffle and Silent Auction” at the fire station.

The Uxbridge Town Common was to play host to music, food, giveaways, face painting, voter information handouts and other happenings. Chuck and Jay Lynch of Lynch’s Riverview Wine & Spirits were chosen as parade marshals for all they have done for the community in the years that their store operated.

New shops like A Touch of Magick, two doors down from Rita’s at 2 South Main St., had reason to look forward to First Night. Owner Debi Kennedy, whose new-age and women’s consignment store has been open only since February, was planning to offer coffee and refreshments and “mini Taro readings for children under ten. I have a lot of new items” for customers to check out, Ms. Kennedy said; jewelry stones and mermaid figurines, for instance.

Also in a position to capitalize on the excitement was Jay’s Smoke Shop, brand-new to the street as of a month ago and the fifth location for Owner Jay Gignesh. Jay’s has three stores in Worcester and one in Milford. “We will offer 25% off everything except tobacco,” Kamana Pokharel, working the counter, said.

“We were very busy for Shop Small,” Corinna Taylor of Bernat Antiques on Elmdale Road said. “People are actively shopping and cheerful about it.” Bernat Antiques was to host its “Midnight Madness” event, with music and eggnog, from 7:00 to 11:30 p.m. December 1st.

Joyful Things, conveniently situated between the two downtowns at 432 N. Main St. in Uxbridge, is well-stocked with antique, vintage and handmade items in anticipation of customers looking for the unusual. Co-Owner Joy Demers is also starting craft workshops—a specialty of hers—at the Northbridge Senior Center in Whitinsville after the first of the year; “not just for seniors,” she noted.

  Stellar weather on November 25th brought hundreds of shoppers to downtown Whitinsville for merchants’ annual “01588” Shop Small extravaganza, which Christine Guanipa of Little Man Handbags said “was awesome, I think our best yet. I had my first customer at 9:30 a.m. and people were still coming in at 4:00 p.m.”

Jeannie Hebert, president of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “Fabulous. Best ever,” Ms. Hebert said. “So pleased to see downtown Northbridge busy sidewalks! Of course the weather was perfect, but so many commented that they were unaware of many of the businesses located here. It was a great event to showcase the best of the community!”

Whitinsville’s success with Shop Small mirrors that of other cities and towns in all fifty states; in 2016, 112 million shoppers spent $15.4 billion at small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving, according to a Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights survey.

“When that bus left them off…” Peter Lacasse, owner of Olde New England Antiques & Art, said, of the stampede he experienced when Foxy Travel’s coach full of shoppers poured into his store shortly after he’d opened for the day.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.