By Ellen Kanzinger
With the growing national “Shop Local movement,” Lexington shopkeepers are optimistic about the upcoming holiday season.
The top 10 busiest shopping days nationwide occur within the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.
The “Shop Local movement” began as a way to compete with large retailers like Amazon and Walmart while keeping more money in the local economy.
Tom Lomax, a co-owner at Pumpkinseeds on Main Street, has seen the movement take hold during the 19 years he has owned the boutique.
“We have an enviable position in Lexington,” he said.
“In most little towns, the downtowns are dying on the vine. We have a really vibrant, thriving downtown.” -Tom Lomax
The movement officially came to Lexington in 2013 with the creation of Main Street Lexington. The organization aims to attract customers to small businesses instead of malls and chain stores.
“People have this misconception that prices are higher here in town,” manager Suzy Jones said.
MSL is part of the larger Main Street America organization, which promotes “economic development and community revitalization across the country.”
To encourage more shoppers to stay local, MSL will be running its 3rd annual Love Lexington Lotto during the holiday season. Participating businesses make a donation to the event to register. Shoppers then pick up a lottery card and collect stamps from each store they visit. At the end of the month long event, each card is entered to win a $1,000 gift certificate to downtown Lexington stores and restaurants.
According to Jones, this encourages local residents to go into stores they might have missed otherwise.
“Knowing it’s right here locally contributes to the whole holiday experience of giving,” she said. “You’re doing the shopping anyway. Why not do it where you know you are appreciated.”
Main Street Lexington is also sponsoring a number of upcoming events to encourage people to get downtown, including a community tree lighting at 5:30 p.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving, a Christmas parade Dec.2, and the Jingle Bell Run, a 5K race, at 10 a.m. Dec. 3.
Other local businesses are also preparing for the crucial buying spree. For Lai Lee, who runs Old Lex Mercantile on Nelson Street with his wife, the month long season adds up to around a third of the shop’s yearly sales. The gourmet food store is in its third year in Lexington.
“I think folks here in Lexington, and really the greater Rockbridge area, are very supportive of local businesses,” he said. “We have a lot of customers who are very loyal.”
In addition to MSL, the Chamber of Commerce also supports and promotes local businesses. For many shop owners, the sense of community is what drew them to the area.
Ernestine Hockaday has owned the Victorian Parlour and Shenandoah Attic on Main Street for 26 years. She chose to set up her shop in Lexington because of the local community.
“We were looking for an environment that did not have big shopping malls,” she said. “It’s a community friendly place.”