By Rod Lee
Picture seasonably ideal late-November weather and Church Street in Whitinsville bustling with activity.
Picture people spinning the prize wheel in the lobby of UniBank in a bid for such giveaways as a canvas carrying bag or a piggy bank.
Picture one shopper at The Maker’s Waypost asking a companion as they perused merchandise “where for lunch, Thai or The Valley Café?”
Picture “Foxy Travelers” spread out on the floor of the business’s office as they go through bags and trade items donated by local merchants with each other—“like kids going through their stockings on Christmas morning” as Foxy’s Tiffany Cutting put it—before boarding a Foxy bus for a first-ever Shop Small 01588 excursion to stores across the Blackstone Valley.
Picture Peter Lacasse of Olde New England Antique & Art reheating soup several times in an attempt to satisfy a sudden hunger while swarmed with customers.
Open only for about six weeks and so a first-time participant in Shop Small 01588, Mr. Lacasse could not believe the foot traffic that he saw come and go at Olde New England Antique Art—in Year 3 of the Saturday-after-Thanksgiving event.
“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “I opened at 9:45 a.m. and had someone in the store right up till quarter to five. A constant flow. I had over 300 people in the store.”
The women on the Foxy Travel bus literally “swarmed in!” an appreciative Mr. Lacasse said. An antiques enthusiast for 28 years, he was glad of the patronage regardless of how much product he sold. “Antiques is a want, not a need,” he explained. “It’s not like I’m selling bread and milk.”
With 29 businesses in 01588 and others in Sutton, Uxbridge, Grafton and Millbury taking part, 2016’s production was a success, co-organizer Christine Guanipa of Little Man Handbags on Church St. said.
The folks at Foxy Travel couldn’t agree more. Ms. Cutting described the all-day shopping tour as “fantastic (and exhausting!).”
The reception Foxy Travelers received at each stop made it worthwhile, she said.
“Katalina’s Boutique served wine and baked goods while we shopped, came right onto the bus, thanked everyone for coming and pulled a raffle for a gift card (winner, Cathi Cone),” Ms. Cutting said.
“Bernat Mill Antiques surprised everyone with an antique coffee mug filled with Hersey kisses and candy canes.
“Great Stories Inc. gave an additional 15% off everything on top of Buy One Get One Free.
“Grafton Country Store threw open both of their doors upon our arrival, rang an old-fashioned bell, yelling ʽFoxy is here! Foxy is here!’ The owner helped our guests shop, gift-wrapped their items for free and then came on the bus to take pictures of all of us and pull the raffle for a gift basket (winner, Ashley Ferrick).
“Boring to Adoring had a gourmet hot-chocolate bar waiting for us and also came right onto the bus to pull the raffle (winner, Stephanie Pemberton) and gave a heartfelt thank-you speech.
“Our Foxy Travelers bought so much stuff we filled three storage bins beneath the bus and almost all of the overhead (compartments)! Before the day was even over guests were discussing next year’s Shop Small Foxy trip, suggesting other places to go and debating which stops should remain on the tour…that’s when you know the day was a success. I’ve even received thank-you cards in the mail.”
As if Foxy Travelers’ “Happy Holiday attitudes” from start to finish, listening to music on the bus, laughing a lot and “making new friends” wasn’t enough, there were the phrases Ms. Cutting heard repeatedly: “I never knew this place existed” and “I can’t wait to come back here.” In continually polling the group to get the 48 Travelers’ opinions about what stops were their favorites “the majority enjoyed Shop Small 01588 the most!” she said.
Ms. Guanipa said a “follow-up meeting” of Small Business Saturday organizers will be held in January to assess how Year 3 fared from the merchants’ standpoint. Her only concern was lighter turnout than hoped for at Alternatives on Douglas Road and the Linwood Mill on Linwood Ave. This will be discussed. “As a coordinator I want them to do well,” she said.
Contact Rod Lee at email@example.com or 774-232-2999.