WESTERLY — Forget the malls and the internet, with its facelessness and endless boxes to click and passwords to enter, and walk if you live close enough or pack up the car with family and friends and head downtown, where all your holiday shopping needs can be met.
That’s the message of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Downtown Business Association as its members prepared for Small Business Saturday, the shopping day developed by American Express for the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Tim Lebling, who runs the coffee operation at Savoy Bookshop and Café, said he hopes Saturday kicks off a busy holiday season for merchants on High Street and the surrounding area.
“The evolution of what’s happening downtown is just remarkable. And now with the addition of Bricks and Murals and the variety of shops, there is an energy that has made this more of a destination for people to spend the full afternoon plus the evening,” said Lebling, who with his wife, Erika, also runs Wakin' Up Waggin', the coffee-smoothie bar in the foyer of the Ocean Community YMCA's Westerly branch.
Like many downtown merchants, the book store and café will both offer specials Saturday and a “couple of holiday surprises through the season,” Lebling said.
Additionally, WBLQ is planning a live remote broadcast outside in the downtown area and the association has arranged for trolley rides to tour the murals that were painted throughout downtown in September as part of the Bricks & Murals festival. Perks & Corks, the High Street café, will be offering a range of live music throughout the day Saturday.
The Eagle’s Nest Gallery plans an emphasis on American-made items and a focus, as per usual, on local artists. Proprietor Gail Desrosier said she hopes the uniqueness of the downtown area is not taken for granted.
“If you don’t want to lose the downtown then you need to support it. We’re so fortunate to have this type of downtown with a mix of restaurants and retail for the community,” Desrosier said.
Like Lebling, Desrosier said she is excited to see what type of pull the murals have. The murals, combined with the arrival of Santa Claus, which was expected to occur tonight, the annual Holiday Stroll & Luminaria planned for Dec. 6, and the blend of regular offerings result in “a lot to do in this little town,” Desrosier said.
The overarching message of Small Business Saturday and the broader holiday retail season boils down to the following: “Shop local and shop small. Keep the business in your community, because it’s these businesses that make us what we are,” said Wendy Brown, president of the Downtown Business Association.
Brown also asked would-be visitors not to be discouraged by the road construction project at the intersection of Broad and High streets. “We are open for business, you can get through and there’s plenty of parking,” Brown said.