After enduring months of COVID-19-depressed sales, downtown merchants hope to get a boost from holiday shoppers in the weeks ahead, even as the pandemic continues and they operate under new restrictions. For some merchants, the seasonal sales could make the difference between them staying open or closing permanently.
“Supporting businesses downtown is really important because some people have already closed their doors because of the pandemic,” said Liisa John, owner of Mosaic Fair Trade Collection, 28 E. Broadway. “To help keep downtown alive and to help us all stay in business, it’s a great thing that the community can do.”
The heart of the city has plenty of shopping options, with an eclectic variety of locally owned stores in a relatively small area. Shoppers can find clothing, toys, hats, jewelry, housewares, footwear, art, wine, furniture, bicycles, household décor, wellness products, and much more, all within a few blocks of each other.
“There are a lot of great shops downtown and people ought to get out and explore, because there are some amazing things that you aren’t going to find anywhere else,” said Priya Makyadath, owner of shoe-a-holic, 957 Willamette St.
And this holiday season, shoppers will have more gift-buying options downtown than usual. The Holiday Market and its extensive array of craftspeople on Saturday returns to its downtown roots by moving from its indoor venue at the Lane Events Center to the outdoor Park Blocks.
The Holiday Market – the holiday version of Saturday Market – has been at the Lane Events Center since the mid-1980s.
The move was requested by market craftspeople concerned about selling indoors during the pandemic. The Holiday Market will be open at the Park Blocks from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays, from Nov. 21 to Dec. 19.
Eugene merchants are following state guidelines to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 by requiring customers to wear masks and limiting the number of people allowed in stores at one time. The Holiday Market will also require people to wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing.
Keeping people apart means that about half the normal number of vendors will be present each Saturday during the Holiday Market. Shoppers can visit the Saturday Market website and click on the “Weekly Live Map of Artisans” link to learn which vendors will be at the next market and where they will be located on the Park Blocks.
To make shopping convenient, several downtown stores -- like restaurants -- are offering curbside pickup. The City of Eugene is supporting downtown commerce by allowing free parking in the Overpark and Parcade garages seven days a week.
John, of Mosaic Fair Trade Collection, hopes that the Holiday Market’s return to the Park Blocks helps downtown merchants in the same way Saturday Market has a positive economic effect on the area for much of the year.
“It creates traffic down here, and it’s a nice positive energy,” John said. “People seem to be a good mood when they come down to the market. You see more families. It’s always a positive thing.”
Small Business Saturday, which encourages people to support small businesses, will take place on Nov. 28.
By supporting local merchants, shoppers also help the economy close to home. Local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar in the regional economy by creating locally owned supply chains and investing in their employees, according to studies cited by the Institute For Local Self-Reliance.
“As a small business owner and a member of your community, I encourage you to shop small this holiday season,” said Brenda Stebbeds, owner of Urban Therapeutic, 749 Willamette St. “Help keep our community strong and vibrant, while we keep each other safe and healthy.”
“And even if we are wearing a mask, there are smiles underneath, because small businesses are driven by a passion for what we do and who we serve.”