Shoppers discover ‘specialty’ option

Photo by Jenny Kirk Susan Gropel took time to look over items on the shelves at Marshall Greenwood Nursery on Small Business Saturday.

With Thanksgiving in the books, a lot of people are starting to look toward Christmas and that typically means, especially in this day and age, quite a bit of shopping.

According to data from Adobe Digital Insights, American shoppers spent a record $5 billion in 24 hours this Black Friday, marking a 16.9 percent increase in dollars compared to Black Friday spending in 2016. ADI tracks 80 percent of online spending at the 100 largest retail website in the U.S.

While it’s difficult enough to compete with large chain businesses during the busiest shopping days of the year, online options make it even more challenging for small businesses. But many of those specialty businesses do their best to entice shoppers to think locally, especially on Small Business Saturday.

“It was busy,” said Missy Jones, co-owner of Marshall Greenwood Nursery, located just south of Marshall. “We had a couple of holiday planter classes and there were a lot of people out shopping.”

Jones said she spent a good part of the day decorating wreaths to replace the ones that sold. Greenwood employee Hannah Henkelman said a lot of greens were purchased throughout the day.

We sold a lot of wreaths and quite a few trees, too,” Henkelman said.

With Christmas décor inside the store being offered at 25 percent off, a large number of customers were attracted to Greenwood on Saturday.

“A lot of people took advantage of that,” Jones said. “I think we beat last year’s sales. I think it helps that it’s good weather outside for doing their pots and planters.”

Marshall resident Susan Gropel was one of the many customers.

“I love shopping out here,” Gropel said. “They have fun stuff.”

In Tracy, a steady line of shoppers walked through the doors of The Caboose for the seventh annual Holiday Bazaar, which is meant to encourage people to shop locally, support the area talent and jumpstart their Christmas shopping.

“We try to keep people in the area instead of having them run to bigger cities,” said Diane Fiegen, who coordinates the Bazaar along with Tammara Stimpert Schons. “We appreciate when people use their local vendors.”

Schons and Fiegen were easy to locate, either by sound or sight, as they were festively-dressed as elves and had bells on their slippers that jingled whenever they walked.

“We always like to do something now one else would,” Fiegen said.

Free holiday bags were handed out to the first 50 customers. This year’s craft fair had 63 vendors set up throughout The Caboose.

“I think we had good traffic flow,” Schons said. “I think the vendors were happy.”

Walnut Grove residents Rick and Lori Wakefield, along with their daughter, Amy Woolf, were among the many vendors.

“It was a good day,” Lori Wakefield said. “It was steady. There really was no down time.”

Rick Wakefield added that he was pleased with the turnout as well.

“There were a lot of people here,” he said. “I think the weather probably had a little bit to do with it.”

Quite a few of the vendors, including Cheryl and Philip DePover of Fulda, return to the Bazaar year after year.

“We’ve been here before,” Cheryl DePover said. “There were a lot of people coming through and buying stuff, so that was good.”

Customers had opportunities to purchase wood gifts, home decorations, gift items, lotions, makeup, jewelry, candles, baked goods, health and wellness products and of course, holiday items.

“I think we had enough variety,” Fiegen said. “People coming through were happy with the selection, the choices.”

Some of the items sold were hand-selected and one-of-a-kind, such as the bells that Jesse James found for Brandon Schroeder, who will be trying out the role of St. Nick in the near future.

With the Bazaar growing over the years, the organizers have had to make additional accommodations for the vendors.

“Normally, we do the ballroom and the dining room, but we had to expand into the bar area this year,” Schons said. “We had two vendors in there.”

The Caboose also serves food throughout the event.

“We actually go around with menus and deliver their food to them, take their money from them, so they don’t have to be interrupted when they’re with their customers,” Fiegen said. “We’ve been doing that almost since Day 1, too, so it works out really well.”

Fiegen said the Holiday Bazaar ended up sparking a whole-town celebration in Tracy.

“We kind of built it from Day 1 and the town actually built their celebration around our Small Business Saturday holiday weekend. They built it off our craft fair.”

Santa also visited the Tracy Public Library and joyfully took photos with the children. Roughly 200 children also received a free storybook, courtesy of the Tracy Kiwanis Club. The Tracy Lion’s Club also served its annual holiday supper. To close out the day’s festivities, the fifth-annual downtown holiday lights parade took place.

“They have the Holiday Parade of Lights (Saturday night),” Fiegen said. “They started that the third year after we started the Bazaar.”

Among the decorated and lit-up entries were tractors, trailers, cars and others motorized vehicles. The Tracy Fire Department float transported Santa and his lit-up sleigh, while the St. Mary’s School and Tracy Lutheran Church entries both used twinkling lights to form the outline of a cross.

“It’s just a fun event and it helps get people into the local businesses,” Schons said.