Bellingham merchants expecting final push for holiday gifts

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 8, 2013 

Fairhaven holds a different Black Friday celebration

Wally Hoyt-Whitaker and Ridgely Hoyt-Whitaker look at Christmas ornaments, Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 at Paper Dreams in Bellingham. "We have children we are taking around buying things for," Wall said.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

It's the home stretch for the holiday shopping season, and for many local businesses this is a crucial two-and-a-half week period.

Sales appear to have started at a steady pace in Fairhaven, picking up in the last week. Merchants generally expect it to get really busy in the final days leading up to Christmas, unless this area is hit by a major snowstorm.

"I think people are just getting into the swing of things," said Colleen Mitchell, owner of Culinary Creations. "I've seen a lot of people shopping around, with more starting to make purchases lately."

Drizzle Olive Oil & Vinegar, which sells a variety of food ingredients, got off to a fast start as customers looked for gifts and key ingredients for holiday meals, said owner Ross Driscoll.

"This was our first year up front (the store expanded into the front section of the building facing 11th Street) and we've had to re-order some things. That's a pleasant problem to have," he said. "People are stocking up the pantry for festive meals, but also sharing what they like with friends by buying gifts."

At 12th Street Shoes, the store had its best November ever as people shopped for themselves, said owner Jody Finnegan. She's not expecting as strong a December, though, because shoes are a difficult item to give as a gift.

"We usually do a lot of gift cards in December," she said.

While the district has seen a steady increase of shoppers in the evenings during the week, the big jump to this point has been during the weekends, said Cami Grichel, owner of the jewelry and gift store Whimsey on 10th Street.

"Typically we see the really big jump happen in the final week," she said.

One trend she's noticed to this point is more local shoppers and fewer Canadians making their way to Fairhaven. She tunes into Canadian radio and TV and has noticed a big shift in advertising from Canadian retailers, imploring residents north of the border to stay home and shop local.

"Maybe that (advertising campaign) is affecting (Fairhaven)," Grichel said.

Even though activity usually picks up in the final days, owners are not taking chances, holding special events to lure customers. Culinary Creations is planning to offer free beer samples and appetizers on Friday, Dec. 13, along with discounts.

One thing that's helped is the weather. While really cold, the sunny weather has brought people out and put them in a good mood, Driscoll said.

"The sun makes things a little more accessible, while the dusting of snow reminds people that it could change," said Driscoll, who is hoping significant lowland snow holds off until Christmas.

JELITA ARTS CLOSING THIS MONTH

After nearly 10 years of business in Bellingham, the boutique antique store Jelita Arts will be closing at the end of December.

Owner Julia Clauset is dealing with some health issues that are making it difficult to run a brick-and-mortar store, so she plans on continuing her business online, said her husband, Karl Clauset.

The shop has a variety of Asian, American and European antiques with a wide range of prices. The business originally opened in downtown Bellingham in 2004 before moving to Fairhaven in 2006. It is at 1139 11th St., near the Fairhaven Avenue Bread.

Karl Clauset said they've enjoyed having the store and Julia will miss the customers and the stories they have about the antiques.

"The stories and connections is something Julia enjoys," he said.

Store hours will vary in the final few weeks. To check on hours or to make an appointment, email jelita_arts@comcast.net or call 360-756-1949.

OTHER TIDBITS

-- A new restaurant is attracting some attention in Nooksack. Three Flavors Kitchen opened in September and offers a varied menu of Asian, Italian and Mexican dishes. Owner Nicolas Epreza said business started off slow but has gotten busier as word got around the eatery was open. The restaurant is at 507 Nooksack Ave. and is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

-- Now here's quite the holiday shop-a-thon: Last week Kohl's announced its stores will be open more than 100 straight hours, catering to shoppers who are struck with a gift idea any time of day. The retailer plans to be open from 6 a.m. Friday Dec. 20, until 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24.

Retail Tip Sheet runs each Sunday.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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