ELLSWORTH — For the biggest shopping season of the year, Ellsworth is urging residents to go local. While this isn’t a new sentiment for holiday gift buying, local shop owners are welcoming the efforts after enduring months of pandemic-influenced shopping, for better or worse.
“We want to make sure that our small businesses remain intact and are with us next year,” said Sonya Connelly of Healthy Acadia, who is spearheading the shop local campaign.
The nonprofit teamed up with the city of Ellsworth, the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce and Heart of Ellsworth to help put some boots — shopping boots, mind you — on city sidewalks. Promotions, longer store hours, Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28 and a virtual local marketplace at heartofellsworth.org are some of the initiatives underway.
For Bliss owner Susan Nordman, whose shop’s opening this past spring was delayed until May because of COVID-19, everything counts. “We’ve had a lot of community support,” she said. “It’s obviously a pandemic, but we’ve found everyone to be cooperative with masks and hand sanitizers. The idea is to keep our customers safe.”
Customer Lolly Lovett had driven in from Lamoine on the sunny if cold afternoon and stepped inside the small gift and personal care store. “I’m not a shopper, but Christmas is coming up and I just wanted to see what was available in Ellsworth,” she said. Her shopping plan, she said, was to start early and make fewer trips.
“People have started Christmas shopping,” Lisa Herrington said from behind the counter at Elizabeth’s Fine Goods on Nov. 13. “Honestly, we’ve had a decent year, believe it or not.”
Union River Book & Toy Co. owner Michael Curtis, who stocked up on educational books and toys during the pandemic, has also seen that pattern, in his shop and his neighbors’ stores. “People who do come in buy a lot, in less trips,” he said.
Unlike gift and clothing stores, Main Street Medical, which sells medical marijuana, does not depend on the holiday shopping season for a huge spike in sales. Remaining open as an essential business during the stay-at-home order last spring, manager Sarah King said the store “prides ourselves on being dedicated to our patients.”
“And I love all our neighbors,” she added. “We really band together and support each other.”
Bliss and other Main Street shops will stay open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays in December, although on Christmas Eve, some shops might be closing early. To add some fun to the holiday shopping experience, Nordman said, downtown businesses will hold a “Christmas Pickle” contest during the first week of December. Participating stores will hide a pickle ornament, and whoever finds it will receive a gift or a coupon for a gift from a neighboring business.
“The idea is everyone is cross-promoting everyone else,” Nordman said.
The 2nd to None Thrift Shop was happy to join in. “Whatever they’re doing, I’m doing,” owner Lass King said.
While business has been going “surprisingly well,” King has noticed one big difference.
“The one thing I’ve noticed is the sidewalks roll up at 3:30 or 4 o’clock. [People] might come here and get takeout, but they’re not hanging around [downtown]. That was true all summer. People are behaving differently.”