By Pete Zamplas-Visitors and merchants alike were pleased with the ambience and turnout of Olde Fashioned Hendersonville Christmas in Downtown last Friday, relishing it as a beacon for a fine holiday shopping season.
Merchants sounded euphoric describing customer traffic on what was an overcast, often drizzly Friday. Caroline Gunther termed turnout “incredible,” and the downtown atmosphere “lively.” She runs Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique. Gunther said her business so far this holiday season and for the year exceeds 2012. She is a former chairperson of a downtown merchants’ holiday committee.
“Fabulous” is how Narnia Studios owner Barbara Hughes described customer flow. It was “booming” in Spice it Up, among newer shops on Main, its owner Dennis Harvey said.
Main Street Advisory Committee member Babs Newton was among people strolling Main on Friday. She observed that “we’re seeing more younger people come downtown.”
She partly credits a crisper, comfortable look with recent completion of Main Street road, sidewalk and greenery improvements. Gunther said it helped since the final two-block phase, at Main’s north end, was done just before the Apple Festival. But she reasoned that before then, in summer, the work site and road closing may have tarnished the look and access to Main as a whole and thus hindered visiting downtown.
Sweets and refreshments were complimentary in several establishments. Some of the tastiest were in the Visitor’s Center, among stations for Santa Claus. In the center, new Henderson County Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Beth Carden is optimistic about volume of visitors to downtown during holidays and in 2014.
Some merchants took initiatives, in greeting the public. Jana Jordan of Decor 8 brought cookies out to people walking by and to the carriage ride crew on Main. Jordan and her colleague, Brandon Murray, were pleased with a steady flow of customers in the shop’s initial holiday season. It opened in March. As The Tribune dropped in a browser selected a fine furnishing to buy, telling clerks he will returning in coming days.
Dale and Angela Lewis of Columbus in adjacent Polk County were in their first visit to Downtown Hendersonville. Their son Matthews, 8, and daughter Sierra, 7, said they liked decorative lights on Main Street.
“This is the friendliest city,” Jordan said. “Our business people are very warm and welcoming.”
Downtown merchants’ sense of unity extends to product referrals. For instance, Dale Lewis bought Angela a small toy car in Dad’s Collectibles. Its co-owner Mark Ray referred him to Collectible Coins Cutlery to look for collector knives for Dale.
Mark Ray said such teamwork is crucial, to helping each other prosper amidst the recession. He is taking steps to better distinguish Hendersonville from area towns by boosting Main’s historic nostalgic feel. He led the effort to recently remodel the McClintock Clock at Fourth and Main. He plans sign remodeling and mural replenishing, elsewhere along Main.
Among those reaching out to the public beyond their doors on Friday were Heritage Museum Executive Director Brenda Bradshaw and other museum hosts. They welcomed people to the museum’s Ye Olde Christmas Gathering at the People’s House. The Historic Courthouse that contains the museum is nicknamed the “People’s House.” Hosts were dressed in Victorian-styled garb. They stood in the courthouse courtyard, which featured two huge trees with lit Christmas lights.
It rained hard later Friday night as Bands of Bounty went on in Hannah Flanagan’s. But the next day, on Saturday, weather was pleasant for the Christmas parade.
Roving carolers sang on Main Friday. Also, there were free rides along Main in Hendersonville Trolley Co. bus trolleys, and with Santa along in a horse-drawn wooden sleigh of Carolina Horse and Carriage (CHC). Sleigh rides with Santa continue evenings of Dec. 15 and 21, for the usual $10 fee for 10 to 15 minutes. Regular rides are on Dec. 13, 15, 20, 21 and 24. Pickup is in front of the Visitors Center, at 201 S. Main. Call CHC at 209-1099 for reservations.
Check the tourism authority website for holiday and other special events this month, at www.historichendersonville.org/december.htm.