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Economy looks brighter this season

By Staff | Dec 17, 2010

As citizens march through the holiday season, local businesses consider the impact of Christmas in Shepherdstown on an economy, many feel, is starting to recover.

“I’m hopeful,” said Eric White, owner of Blue River, a boutique that specializes in socially-conscious natural clothing and jewelry.

He, like many, has found the Christmas season a more profitable time of year to do business. And according to White, business is up in comparison to previous years since the onset of the recession.

White, who decorated his store in garland and put out homemade Christmas cookies for customers, said things are “better than last year.”

According to Meghan Geary, manager and buyer for Sky’s the Limit boutique, Christmas in Shepherdstown proves to be a popular event for tourists and locals. There is “more foot traffic” and people walking around town for the festivities, she said.

“There were actually more people than expected the first weekend of Christmas in Shepherdstown,” Geary said. “A lot of people come out for Santa.”

Every weekend in December as the town offers Christmas attractions like sleigh rides and carolers, the local businesses follow suit with specials or activities of their own.

“We have a ’12 Days of Christmas’ sale,” said Geary.

To capitalize on the increased tourism, most stores and businesses also stay open later and offer refreshments throughout the day, like hot cocoa or wine and chocolate to lure in customers.

Geary, who has worked in Shepherdstown for the past six years, acknowledges the impact a slow economy has had.

“The economy has been slowly declining for the last five years,” she said.

Geary said while year-round sales for the boutique have remained more or less consistent for the past couple of years, they aren’t outstanding.

“It was way better six years ago, but we’ve had a good December. Our gift sales have tripled,” she said.

While boutiques and specialty stores have faced certain challenges, many believe the restaurant industry has suffered the most during the recession, as people are hesitant to spend money eating out.

Elizabeth Gallery, owner and chef for Stone Soup Bistro said that she used the economic recession as an opportunity to learn.

“The recession taught me that people want value and quality.”

Accordingly, Stone Soup adapted to meet the financial limitations many people have.

“Through the winter months we always have good specials bistro meals. We’re trying to get students in and locals during the week,” Gallery said.

She also said that the Christmas in Shepherdstown extravaganza has helped keep patrons stopping in to eat.

“Anytime Shepherdstown does events, it’s always good for us,” she said.

She added that she’s excited about service on New Year’s and looks forward to good business.

Gallery hopes that people will continue to support local restaurants and stores even in tough times.

“It’s grassroots community work that helps the whole nation thrive.”