Port residents are buying local this Christmas season, helping area merchants ring up solid sales in a dynamic that creates happy holidays for all.
With less than a week to go, Port shop owners from one end of Main Street to the other are responding favorably to the way they’ve been faring so far, despite the official shopping season being a week shorter this year than last.
Loyalty is one factor, as local merchants provide a hands-on approach and personalized service, as well as knowing what their customers like.
These attributes can counter the anonymity of huge department stores. The goodwill is important at a time of continued socioeconomic uncertainty and competition from the Internet.
“Every year gets better and better for us,” said Bob Mazza, owner of the Sands Point Shop at 15 Main. “This year I think it will be 15 percent better than last year.”
Citing the 20 year loyalty of his customers, who are drawn to his large selection of Longchamp handbags and accessories, Barbour clothing, gift items and jewelry, Mazza added, “One of our customers came in from Connecticut last week and spent a couple of thousand dollars on watch repairs and gifts.”
A few doors down from Mazza’s store, Impulse Boutique’s owner, Cheryl Feld, expressed satisfaction with the way things were going at her ladies clothing shop, now in its fourth year at 29 Main. “We’re not way ahead of last year,” she said. “We’re just about equal. Because of Hanukkah being early, it kind of broke the holiday madness. So we were up in November. Everything in every category is selling well. Accessories, at this time of the year, always pick up. We sold all of our handbags from one of our top labels in just two days.
“We’re in a conservative environment now and people have so many options, especially online,” she added. “I think people are just cautious. But we have a wonderful clientele and they’re supporting us.”
Across Main St., opposite the LIRR station, Arena’s Sports Center’s Steven Avazis, in his 20th year, wasn’t too concerned about holiday sales. “We get a little bit of a bump during Christmas and it’s about the same as last year,” he said. “Our big seasons are in the spring and fall.” But in the middle of his conversation, a customer walked in and quickly bought three basketballs as gifts.
Adam Novick, a member of the Alper family that has operated Alper’s Hardware for over 102 years in Port, said that the store at 81 Main isn’t as dependent on Christmas sales as it was many years ago. “We’re more about selling necessities,” he said. “The gifts give us just a little bit of a bump. Things aren’t the same as they were when I was a kid. I remember working here and wrapping a lot of gifts for our customers.”
In a nod to that past, Novick is responsible for one of the more striking store windows on Main, featuring Peanuts and Star Wars characters and a working train set.
“It’s better than last year,” he did admit, regarding sales. “Last year people were pretty tentative after superstorm Sandy. I think we’re kind of back to where we were the year before. We’re up about five percent over last year.”
Further down Main, heading toward the shore, some of newer business owners on the street voiced their feelings. Yi Wang, owner of Attelia Baby with her husband, Clifford Cotten, for almost six months at 184 Main, said, “We had a lot of foot traffic from the Port Holiday Magic event on Dec. 4. I feel people are waiting for the last minute. They’ve been coming in and saying ‘We just want to get some ideas and we’ll come back.’ I hope they do.” One of their best-selling items so far has been a $200 dollhouse from Germany, complete with furniture.
“Last year was phenomenal and this year is even more phenomenal,” said Dawn Rogers about her small shop, Initial Stop, at 282 Main, that’s been in operation since August of last year. Rogers specializes in custom embroidery and monogramming.
“I’m extremely busy,” she commented. “Everybody’s doing things that need personalizing. Last year I still had people coming in on Christmas Eve and had me doing things while they waited. This year I’ll rest on Christmas Day, when I’m closed.”
Judith Mitzner, who took over the 67-year-old Dolphin Book Shop at 299 Main about six months ago, is in the midst of her first Christmas shopping season as owner.
“I’m feeling really good about what’s going on,” she said. “Its exciting. It’s such a positive time for everyone.
“It’s hard to judge whether this season will turn out to be better than last year’s,” she continued. “People are more conservative with their spending. That’s the impression I’ve gotten from speaking with other merchants in the area. But my employees seem to feel that things are going really well.”
In addition to Dolphin’s wide array of children’s books, which always sell well, The Rainbow Loom rubber band bracelets continue to be extremely popular. “It’s a whole phenomenon,” Mitzner said.SHARE Facebook Twitter