Hendersonville – Downtown Hendersonville took on the fantasy identity of Dr. Suess’ “Whoville” on Saturday, to radiate its small-town holiday charm.
This was the City of Hendersonville’s “Open Streets” final monthly closure of vehicular traffic along Main Street this year, to promote more pedestrian visits to downtown businesses. Outdoor dining was encouraged in warmer weather months.
Several merchants said there was above-average turnout of potential customers dropping in. Another reason was the second annual Peppermint Bear Scavenger Hunt for stuffed bear dolls inside stores. That scavenger hunt runs through Dec. 23.
Many said they also had extra visits on the prior weekend, with nationwide shopping promos of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28, Four Seasons Hospice Home Store Asst. Mgr. Jeff Shank said the thrift shop with three showrooms typically gets 130 to 150 sales a day on a Friday or Saturday, but averaged 183 on Small Business weekend and did well again on this past weekend.
However, sales have been mixed among Downtown Hendersonville retailers during this pandemic-stricken year, Caroline Gunther said, based on her discussions with colleagues. She has owned and operated Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique since 2008. She said her sales have remained healthy — even with economic downturns this year.
In such harder economic times, Gunther said, consumers tend to seek to lift spirits and still spend on “their pets, their kids, and inebriants.” She reasons that with more people working from home, they “have more time with their pets and to see their behavior and their needs” medically or emotionally.
Gunther said she is “thankful” to be a merchant in Hendersonville, within an extensive downtown (a mile long), and one creative with promotions. She is a longtime board member of the merchant group soon to be renamed as the Downtown Advisory Board.
Wags! raised about $1,500 on Saturday for Blue Ridge Humane Society, from photos of pets with “Santa Paws,” Gunther noted. A more classic Santa Claus was in photos outside of Emma’s Baby Boutique.
Last Saturday would have been the day of the Christmas parade, which was cancelled far ahead due to the pandemic.
Instead, it was heralded as “Whoo Loves Hendo” day. Some downtown workers dressed as Dr. Seuss’ Whoville characters such as The Grinch. The most vivid Grinch outfit was worn by Austin Mercer in the Wag! store. Hospice’s Shank was Seuss’ classic Cat in the Hat.
Scavenging for Bears Heats Up
The month-long Peppermint Bear Scavenger Hunt is credited for bringing more foot traffic — starting with its 27 participating businesses. Emma’s owner Tiffany Cornett said many people strolled into her gift shop initially searching for a Peppermint Bear before checking merchandise. She tracked volume by how many decorated pencils (one per scavenger hunter) she gave out — 60 on a busy Saturday.
Rather than leave her Peppermint Bear in the same spot and risk word of mouth about its location, Cornett periodically moves it around. On Saturday, it was immersed into dozens of stuffed bear toys she sells.
Four Seasons Christmas Garden Decor & More across Main is another scavenger stop with many bear dolls inside.
Michael Willey — no relation to the bee mural artist of the same name — opened The 2nd Act Coffee, Wine & Craft Beer Bar at 101 E. Allen merely two months ago. It is the easternmost establishment on the map of Scavenger Hunt businesses, and the sole one closer to King Street than Main. Willey figures the Scavenger Hunt is helping downtown strollers discover his lounge, and many return as customers.
The 2nd Act is the scavenger stop nearest the Visitors Information Center at 201 S. Main St. Both are at the southern edge of the contest map. The visitors center is where people often start their hunt, after acquiring their brochure and map.
The contest works this way: Go inside these stores, detect a semi-hidden bear doll in at least 12 of them, and point out the bear to a worker of that store. The worker punches the box to the right of that store’s name in your brochure to prove you found a bear doll there. Many stores give a scavenger hunter a trinket or other small gift.
Once you document finding 12 or more bears, fill out the entry form then take the brochure to the visitors center to enter the drawing for children/family gifts.
Henderson County Tourism Development Authority (HCTDA), which is based in the visitors center, organized the bear hunt. Michael Arrowood is its group sales coordinator. He and a lady friend walked Main Saturday evening, admiring lit holiday-themed storefronts.
There is also an annual contest for storefronts, and another for home decorations. Both are for across Henderson County, with votes online through Dec. 18. The one for merchants is for “best holiday window displays and lighting,” said HCTDA Events Coordinator Amy Boswell.
The Hospice thrift shop at 215 N. Main St. and Black Rose Public House at 222 N. Main are among Downtown Hendersonville businesses with holiday storefronts that stand out. Mary Hudachek Swofford Coffey designed Hospice’s colorful Christmas scene with a gingerbread house, huge decorated tree, and ice cream cone imagery.
Black Rose’s exterior windows are painted with Christmas characters, including The Grinch as well as images from the films Christmas Vacation (with the Griswolds led by Chevy Chase), A Christmas Story, and Home Alone.
For more info, go to the Visitor Center, call 693-9708, or check http://visithendersonvillenc.org – which is also a means for voting in the decorations contest.