By Mary O’KEEFE
Montrose Shopping Park Association will be spinning Black Friday into White Friday on Nov. 25 – snow white, in fact.
The old town Montrose shopping park is a small town in the shadow of large cities. The charm of the area has been its reflection of a time forgotten and longed for, a place where kids walk the avenue eating ice cream and shoppers are greeted by a familiar “hello” rather than an “I’ll be with you in minute.”
The MSPA is hoping to start a new tradition this holiday season with a holiday town and tree lighting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25. The tree will be installed at the southeast corner of Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard. The holiday season scene will be completed with strolling carolers and snow.
“MSPA will have a snow area in the 2200 block of Honolulu Avenue,” confirmed Linda McMenamin, MSPA events coordinator.
And snow will be falling, with the help of snow blowing machines. With kids playing as snow falls, and carolers singing as the town and tree is lighted, the MSPA is hoping that more shoppers will choose to shop independent stores and forego the big box malls.
“Shops will have snowflakes in their window indicating they have special deals, are hosting a [holiday treat] table or some are whiting out the sales tax,” McMenamin said.
“We will be giving a 10% discount throughout the day,” said Maureen Palacious, owner of Once Upon A Time bookstore, the oldest children’s bookstore in the nation.
Competition for the ever-shrinking dollar has been a constant between big retailers and independent businesses. Montrose merchants want to build on their unique small- town atmosphere.
White Friday is the kick-off for the traditional holiday season in Montrose. Shoppers and those enjoying the restaurants around town will be entertained with holiday performances by musicians like the Martini
Kings, along with a new feature of strolling carolers. Visitors can take a ride on a horse drawn trolley down one end of the shopping park to the other, and pony rides are available for kids – all for free as a gift from the merchants of the shopping park.
The push for shopping locally continues on Saturday, Nov. 26 with Small Business Saturday, a program sponsored by American Express.
The idea is consistent with the American Express commitment to small business growth, said Patricia Norins, advisor for Small Business Saturday.
“This year there is a new component with [American Express] with a Facebook interactive database for merchants,” Norins said.
Last year was the launch of the program. It appeared to be a success with small business participants that accepted American Express seeing a 28% increase in sales compared to the same time period the year prior, Norins added.
Being a business that accepts American Express is not a requirement to participate in Small Business Saturday. Through national commercials, the credit card company is on a mission to remind people to shop locally, and to shop independent stores.
“With national exposure and awareness we are trying to level the playing field,” she added.
A look into the world of independent retailers can be found through the American Express OPEN independent Retail Index, a 20-year analysis of independent businesses in America.
The study found that from 1990 to 2009 in Los Angeles, independent retail shops saw their percent of the market decline from 65% to 56%. Independent restaurants and bars in L.A. also saw a decline from 71% to 63%.
The study looked into the affects of local businesses in neighborhoods.
“Housing values [were found to be] 50% higher,” Norins said.
“In addition, those neighborhoods also benefitted from strong hiring at small, independently owned businesses,” according to the findings.
Even competing against the lure of malls and mega-superstores, the report found encouraging trends, including with local clothing stores, indicating a rebound in recent years. Stores, including music, book and hobby shops, have maintained “a high percentage of the market throughout the study timeframe.”
The advantages of shopping locally are not a surprise to Palacios who knows the struggles and rewards of owning her own business.
“Independent stores give back to the community,” she said. “We hire local kids and in a study done [a few years ago] found that of every $100 spent with a local store, $68 stayed in the community.”
That money staying in the community will be evident on Nov. 25 and throughout the holiday shopping season in Montrose.
“Leave the chaos of the mall,” urged McMenamin.