Tisbury makes shopping an occasion
Traffic and bustle, special treats, music, and strangers nodding greetings - shopping in Vineyard Haven this time of year brings out the holiday spirit. The scent of pine from the tree sale in front of Bowl and Board permeates Main Street. The ringing of the Salvation Army bell evokes scenes from old holiday movies. Shop windows are decorated, and the smell of cider and the sounds of familiar holiday tunes greet costumers walking through the doors of local stores.
With this year's Christmas shopping season less of a sure thing for local merchants, Tisbury Business Association (TBA) members banded together to try to ensure a healthy holiday season. Two results of their creative planning are Twilight Thursdays and Friends and Family Night.
Last week, the TBA initiated Twilight Thursdays. For three consecutive weeks, many of the town's stores will stay open until 7 pm and offer specials, refreshments, and raffles. Everyone who makes a minimum $5 purchase on Thursday evening will be eligible to enter a raffle drawing held that night. The prize baskets are provided by different merchants each week and have a value of at least $200. Last week's raffle prize was a basket of gourmet items from Vineyard Grocer and cookbooks from Bunch of Grapes.
The last Thursday of the initiative, December 17, from 3 to 8 pm, will be Friends and Family Night and will include luminarias on Main Street, music, dining discounts, activities for children and a free family film.
Pat Gregory, president of the TBA and owner of EduComp, notes that TBA membership increased 35 percent this year. That may be indicative of the recognition among merchants of the value of strength in numbers. He credits Danielle Bailey of Kiddo's and Heather Kochin of Rainy Day with coming up with innovative ways, including the Thursday shopping evenings, to bring more shoppers into town.
Ms. Bailey and Ms. Kochin started brainstorming in early October about how local businesses could pool resources and work toward a common goal. The women brought their holiday plan to the board, which was enthusiastic. As a result, many TBA merchants have organized a joint advertising campaign and funded a banner on Main Street to promote Twilight Thursdays and local shopping in general.
Mr. Gregory offers an encouraging sign for business owners, pointing out EduComp's transaction figures, for the past three months, are up for the first time in a year. He says, "People are now getting more active, and the recession is really waning, at least from our perspective."
Still, new strategies for a new economic situation are in order for survival. With its door reopened, Che's Lounge is providing shoppers with an added treat, a chance to catch their breath, sip hot cider, and enjoy watching Islanders display their talents: music, recitations, poetry - a variety of performances. This Thursday, open mic begins at 7:30 pm - the perfect ending for a shopping spree.
Ms. Bailey endorses a proactive and collaborative approach. She notes, "Our board is small but young and ready to rejuvenate. I feel like the younger generation of owners is bringing new energy back into Tisbury."
At this past Thursday evening's kick-off, those who were out seemed to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of a town that usually empties out after 5 pm. But on Twilight Thursdays the shops offer fun incentives, such as the truffles and libations that will be offered by Rainy Day on December 17.
April Levandowski of LeRoux at Home admits the turnout last Thursday was expectedly light, but she says it's her experience that "Christmas doesn't start on the Vineyard until 10 days before." For Friends and Family Night, she expects to get a crowd for a scheduled wine tasting with hors d'oeuvres from 6-8 pm.
Bunch of Grapes has teamed with Waterside Market in offering a 10-percent discount to anyone presenting a Bunch of Grapes receipt on Twilight Thursdays. The bookstore is also giving shoppers a Bunch of Grapes tote bag, with purchases of more than $50 and offers 20 percent off all Vineyard books for Thursday evening shoppers. On Friends and Family Night Bunch of Grapes will host a children's story hour, along with eggnog for evening shoppers.
The festivities extend along State Road to Shirley's Hardware and Vineyard Grocer, and along Beach Road to the Tisbury Market Place. Santa will make stops along the entire stretch. Restaurants will offer enticements in the form of discounts and two-for-one bargains.
Twilight Thursdays promise to make shopping fun and easy, with a chance to celebrate the season with friends and neighbors.