Downtown businesses optimistic about holiday shopping season Events, free parking offered to lure customers


Looking for a little holiday cheer yesterday, Mary Ann Hugg found it in Annapolis at the Christmas Spirit shop on Main Street where business was brisk and smiles were plentiful.

"It's easy to get into the holiday spirit around here," said Hugg, smiling as she bought two tree ornaments. "I'm an on-again, off-again resident, but I wanted to come back to Annapolis to walk around because it's just so festive."

For the Christmas shop, which is open all year round, "This is our time of year," said owner Marjorie Burns.

Tomorrow, downtown businesses also will hold the "Eleventh Hour" and on Dec. 12 they'll hold "Midnight Madness," both nights on which stores stay open late for shoppers. Carolers will stroll the streets and Santa will pass out candy canes as people ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Stores also will serve hot apple cider.

It's enough to make anyone smile because the holiday shopping season is looking bright this year, said Cynthia McBride, owner of McBride Gallery on Main Street and president of the board for the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce.

"You're talking to much happier, more optimistic people this year," McBride said. "It has been a wonderful shopping season so far. It's an excellent time of year for city business owners because it's not just about shopping and restaurants; this city really comes alive during this season.

"With our old, colonial brick streets and sidewalks, gas lanterns and Christmas decorations, it's almost like walking into a storybook Christmas," McBride said. "It just adds to the atmosphere."

Officials say they hope the little white bags with "Happy Holidays -- Free Parking" messages on parking meters will help ease stress until Jan. 1, when the parking fees come back. Participating businesses also are offering up to four hours of validated parking in Hillman and Gotts Court garages for anyone patronizing their stores.

Annapolis also is betting on their specialty stores which offer fine leather goods, pottery and art galleries to bring shoppers downtown and out of the nearby malls.

"Some of the specialty goods that you can't get in the larger retail establishments have unique, personal type gifts," said Robert Youngblood, executive director of the chamber. "That's what makes downtown a real target. Also, Main Street was closed for construction last year and it didn't open up until about mid-December.

"Also, I think generally when the economy is good, so goes the shopping pattern of consumers," Youngblood said. "It's going to be a positive shopping season, we think."

Robert Chance couldn't agree more. Business started looking better in November for W.R. Chance Jewelers, Inc., which reported better sales this year as compared to last.

"So far so good," said Chance, owner of the jewelry store on Main Street. "It was good almost all November and that was great. We're hoping it's a sign that December will be good as well. Maybe if the weather stays nice."

Across the street at The White House, a ladies' apparel store specializing in white clothing, manager Joy Moran was excited about the holiday events coming up for the city, including the Parade of Lights held by the Eastport Yacht Club on Dec. 14.

"Most of the time, Annapolis is for boaters," Moran said. "But Christmas time is for the locals. Not that we don't enjoy tourists, but it's great to get locals out shopping. It's a fabulous season."

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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