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Retailers hopeful for holiday season

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By Tracy Harris

Some say it takes a village to raise a child, but it’s also true it takes a village to keep a village going.

And business owners in the “village” of downtown La Grange joined forces to attract holiday shoppers and promote Small Business Saturday to kickoff holiday shopping.

“I would love to see folks return to buying more from the small guys,” said Chris Cockrell, owner of La Grange Coffee Roasters. “We believe strongly in supporting your own community of small businesses.”

American Express launched the Small Business Saturday initiative last year to support small businesses.

Cockrell took advantage of free online advertising offered by American Express for the event. 

According to a press release from American Express, small retailers who accept American Express cards saw a 28 percent increase in sales on Small Business Saturday in 2010 compared to the same day in 2009.

Independent retailers offer shoppers a different experience said Linda Goin, executive director of Discover Downtown La Grange — customers get to know the shop owners and develop a personal relationship, she said.

Goin said La Grange business owners reported strong sales with busy stores on Small Business Saturday again this year — and she wishes the city received that much business year-round.

A dozen new businesses opened in downtown La Grange this year, including two Saturday — Q&A Sweet Treats bakery cafe and Absolutely Fabulous, which features traditional housewares and some antique pieces.

“We’ve generated some energy here,” Goin said, and added that businesses working together is a key to success.

Goin said business owners need to develop a “mall mentality” by operating their shops with similar business hours. 

Owners also need to support each other by knowing where customers can find specific items locally.

Business owners can partner to make special events bring more visitors to the city – like Light Up La Grange. 

Light Up La Grange is seen as a “thank you” from merchants to the
community. 

La Grange Mayor Bill Lammlein said the city needs the support of local businesses to make Light Up La Grange successful. 

Since the event is designed to draw people into downtown La Grange, he said, businesses owners need extended hours to take advantage of the crowds.

Individual business owners will determine their holiday hours, but Goin said it is likely many will be open Friday and Saturday evenings while the Light Up La Grange light show continues.

Goin believes Main Street businesses should adopt evening hours year-round — not just during the holidays.

Being open only during the day has trained people not to come downtown, she said, and it’ll take time to change that culture.

But, she said, shopping downtown is a two-way street.

“It’s tough to learn how to shop local,” she said. People get into a routine of shopping at big box stores and they don’t realize what smaller shops have to offer, she said.

University of Kentucky student and Oldham County High graduate Liz Schaller is working with Goin to develop a Shop Local campaign that kicked off with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26. Lammlein said he hopes new restaurant One Nineteen West Main, near the La Grange Fire Department, will draw more visitors to that section of Main Street. 

The east end, near Karen’s Book Barn and Java Stop and La Grange Coin Laundry, meanwhile, will get a bit of a facelift early next year with wider sidewalks, flower plantings and an informational kiosk at the Walnut and Main intersection.

“Every small town has the same issues,” Goin said. “It’s how you overcome them that makes you what you are.”