Christmas commerce steady on

Slow start to season, but pace is picking up say specialty stores

Brittny Hodgson fixes up a Christmas wine package.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and so too has the Grey Cup, which means it’s time to get serious about Christmas shopping.

Despite continuing economic confusion, reports from some store owners show it’s not turning out to be bad year, so far.

“It’s kind of hard to nail it down because we’re a very specialized market,” said Rebecca Stiles at Zena’s Gluten Free Bakery.

The store on Dewdney Trunk Road just open six weeks ago and caters to people who can’t tolerate gluten in their diet, usually found in wheats and other grains.

“We’ve had an overwhelming positive result. We’re feeling pretty grateful for that.”

It’s also the first Christmas rush at Swirl Wine Stores, a block west on Dewdney, and business is good, says manager Brittny Hodgson.

The store opened in August and offers only B.C. wine, as well as organic wine, which makes it fit in well with the other organic-themed stores on the busy street. During December, representatives from various wineries will be in the store for tastings while the store also offers gift baskets and wine accessories and wine in all price ranges.

The location is the third for Swirl, after starting in White Rock and Yaletown.

Brittny Hodgson, manager, says there are no plans to move. “We’re here to stay.”

And despite the difference between upscale White Rock and Yaletown and downtown Maple Ridge, the store’s doing fine.

“I’m not finding it hard to sell a $40 bottle of wine.”

At Fetch a Bone holistic pet store and bakery, Lisa Davies figures this Christmas is about the same as last year. But people usually do their shopping for Fido or Fifi closer to Christmas, she adds.

“Definitely December is our busiest month.” But the season really starts Saturday when the store hosts the pet photos with the Grinch, a fundraiser for the Senior Animals in Need Today Society charity in Mission.

Her shop on Harris Road opened four years ago and business is growing steadily.

“Definitely as more and more people learn that we’re here, they’re definitely coming back.”

Fox’s Reach Pub and Grill manager Mike Taylor reports an increase in sales in the last few months, even though tough drinking and driving laws and the HST, which adds seven per cent to restaurant bills, are in place.

Christmas and seasonal events are part of the reason, while people have also become accustomed to the new tax and law and have adjusted accordingly. But it’s still not as good as it was three or four years ago, he adds.

Several yuletide-type events in Maple Ridge’s downtown succeed in luring local customers, says Ineke Boekhorst, executive-director with the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association.

The Wrap It Up Downtown Maple Ridge event, the window-decorating contest and this Saturday’s Old Fashioned Family Christmas Market which will take place next to Memorial Peace Park at 4 p.m., coinciding with the Christmas Festival and Santa Parade, all bring people downtown.

“It’s proving to be a tough year but actually sales are picking up now,” said Boekhorst.

People are starting to appreciate the 700 specialty stores in the core area. “Any mall you go to, you find the same stores over and over and over again.

“For now, our downtown is gathering more and more really specialty stores.”

The area has all the ingredients to become a great shopping area and it’s developing a coffee culture, she added.


Christmas in the Park

Saturday is also the day for Christmas in the Park and the Santa Claus Parade, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Memorial Peace Park.

Hot apple cider, roasted nuts, hot chocolate and other festive treats will be available.

Free hot chocolate (bring your own mug) music, carolling and crafts for kids, as well as a visit with Santa, and photo, is all part of the evening.

The parade starts at 222nd Street at Church Avenue at 6 p.m. exactly, when Santa will turn on the lights on the new Peace Tree planted in Memorial Peace Park.

District spokesman Fred Armstrong said the Peace Tree has half a kilometre of LED lights while downtown has about 3.5 km of LED lights. Thanks to the energy-efficient lights the total bill for the district is $120 for December, instead of $1,000.

A meeting to decide what to do with the old red Christmas lights will take place in the new year.

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