Shop local and see what Richmond Hill has to offer.
This is the premise behind the 1st Annual Christmas Stroll hosted by the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce.
On Dec. 5, after a day of holiday activities in the community, 29 area businesses will keep their doors open until 8 p.m. for customers that wish to explore and shop for gifts. Six participants will have tents set up outside the Chamber office.
Customers are encouraged to visit each participating business and enter for a chance to win a door prize valued at $50 or more. All of the entries from the businesses will be collected for a grand prize drawing of $500 cash donated by the Chamber.
"The business stroll is designed to bring people to local retailers," said Kittie Franklin, executive director of the Chamber. "We want to encourage them to shop in Richmond Hill and support local businesses…(whose owners) could be neighbors, friends."
Attendees will be provided with a map showing the location of participating retailers. Although the event is dubbed a "stroll," it may not be feasible to walk to each and every business as they are located throughout the city. Some businesses are even located outside of city limits, such as The Midway Gallery and The Coastal Grind.
Colette Diaz is the owner of The Coastal Grind, a café in the Keller area. She is hoping to meet new people in the community and get the word out about her shop.
"I think we will get some new traffic, but I hope people don’t get discouraged by the drive," Diaz said.
Franklin is hoping for a good turn out for this event, despite the economy. The stroll is scheduled for a day when people will already be out and about, which she thinks will help with its success.
The Hinesville Downtown Development Authority is sponsoring a similar event this year. Vicki Davis, director of the HDDA, said that 13 Hinesville businesses are participating in an ornament scavenger hunt over the course of nearly a month and a half. Like the Christmas Stroll, each participating business will hold drawings for a prize, followed shortly after by a grand prize drawing for a $500 shopping spree.
"We want to encourage people to visit the businesses repeatedly," said Davis. "Merchants have overwhelmingly commented that foot traffic has increased."
In the past, businesses in downtown Hinesville have held open houses to showcase their holiday items. According to Davis, businesses have done well with the open houses and over the years it has grown in popularity.
Davis is hopeful for healthy holiday sales and mentioned that shoppers have begun to acknowledge the importance of shopping locally.
A number of economic studies have demonstrated that for every dollar spent at a small business, more of the money remains in the local economy than that of a dollar spent at a chain store.
Several Richmond Hill business owners say that shopping local will not only keep them in business, but allow them to hire more staff as demand increases. The creation of jobs is but one benefit to the local economy.
Carol Batastini, owner of Stella Rose, describes her customer as one who wants to unwind and enjoy an afternoon of shopping while the children are in school.
"We’re about customer service in a relaxed environment," Batastini said.
She sells women’s clothing and accessories at her store and is looking forward to meeting new customers and getting involved in Richmond Hill through the Christmas Stroll.
At Hit the Books, owner Haley Beeson sells used books that can later be traded in for store credit.
"I want to participate in building something in Richmond Hill that is community oriented and helps the local economy," Beeson said about the Christmas Stroll.
She looks forward to the exposure from this event and wants people who never knew about her store to stop by.
Beeson said that local shops provide services for residents in the community. This saves them the drive into Savannah, she said, while also providing customer service that will encourage them to visit again.
"When you shop here, you get downtown service unlike in a big city or at a national chain store," Franklin said of local small businesses. "We want people to come out and enjoy a walk…and see what Richmond Hill has to offer."
The 1st Annual Christmas Stroll begins at 5 p.m. on Dec. 5. For more details, contact the Chamber at 912-756-3444.