Small businesses in downtown Conway will be in the spotlight next weekend as they shift gears and showcase their holiday spirit during Conway Downtown Alive Holiday Open House on Nov. 7.
Laura Abernathy owns Fourth and Main on Laurel, one of the businesses participating in Sunday’s event. Her home décor and furniture business has been a part of the holiday open house for the past five years. Abernathy said the event helps get everybody out and shopping and in the Christmas mood.
“It’s a time to switch over from your fall merchandise and get all your Christmas stuff out,” Abernathy said. “Starting next Sunday, we’ll have a lot of Christmas décor in here, including Christmas trees and that kind of stuff.”
Hillary Howard, executive director for Conway Downtown Alive, said about 15 to 20 local businesses will be featured in Sunday’s event. Howard said not only will it be easy to spot which business is featured in holiday open house but all participating businesses will be giving other participating businesses a helping hand.
“Each business participating will have maps available to show all the other businesses that are open,” Howard said. “The open businesses will also be posted on social media. And each business will have a bow or signage on their door to show that they’re part of the event.”
Howard added the restaurants in downtown Conway that are typically open on Sunday are participating and will be featured on the maps.
Sunday’s holiday open house is the first where there is a sense of normalcy around downtown Conway after COVID-19 created concerns around the world. However, Howard said despite the hard times COVID-19 put on small businesses, those in downtown Conway proved to be resilient.
“From having to survive multiple flooding events, bridge closures, they have become very accustomed to thinking outside the box and switching gears very quickly,” Howard said. “And one of the things I was most proud of is their response to the pandemic. We really didn’t lose any businesses downtown due to the pandemic that had not already dipped their toe into the closure waters before the pandemic hit.”
While Sunday is typically a day where small businesses are closed in downtown Conway, Abernathy said she enjoys seeing the flow of customers, adding that events like the holiday open house bring a new round of shoppers.
“Anything like that that Conway Downtown Alive sponsors and promotes, it helps get people down here and into your stores,” Abernathy said. “A lot of people that maybe wouldn’t normally come into your stores … they come in and discover you on days like that.”
Abernathy said Fourth and Main on Laurel will be open on Sundays throughout the month of December. She won’t be the only one in her family having her store open for the holiday open house.
“It’s one day that people come down and walk around and give them time to see all the new stores that are in the area [that] they may not usually see by just driving around,” Abernathy said. “It’s all really important.”
Another new business that is taking part in Sunday’s event is hoping to satisfy customer’s taste buds with imported cheeses, meats and wine. Carolina Cheese and Provisions is a retail space that has a variety of food items that will satisfy whatever craving one may have.
“We’re selling pantry goods, dry goods like pasta, sauces, risotto, all kinds of specialty things from the kitchen such as crackers to really high-end olive oil from Verona, Italy,” co-owner Jeese Sibley said. “We’re going to be serving artisanal gelato, nine different flavors by the cup and by the cone.”
Sibley added there will be plenty of wine for customers to sample and take home if it suits them.
“We have about 15 wines at the moment,” Sibley said. “Most of those should be available by the glass, at least 10 of those.”
While Carolina Cheese and Provisions might not be fully ready by the time of the holiday open house, the owner said customers can come by and get a taste of delicious cheese and other menu items that they will have to offer.
“If people want to buy some cheese from the cabinet, they can,” Sibley said. “We cut charcuterie to order, but we aren’t promising full-service just yet.”
Sibley said the following week there will be a soft opening for the shop and they will start to serve their signature sandwiches on fresh baked Focaccia bread. Still, Sibley said Sunday is a welcome opportunity for customers to stop in and get a taste of food folks may never have tried.
“It’s important to bring new things to the community,” Sibley said. “Even now, perhaps it’s a little difficult for people to travel, so people can come down to us instead and they get this international cuisine but also at the same time trying to incorporate local and seasonal ingredients when possible.”
That uniqueness is something small businesses thrive off of, giving customers something different than what they see every day at the larger retailers.
Abernathy said this year will be a big year for small businesses.
“This year, I think the small businesses are going to have stuff that the big box stores can’t get their hands on,” Abernathy said. “This year the small businesses are really going to be where everybody has to go to get whatever they want.”
Howard added there is something about buying local that separates small businesses from the big box stores.
“The customer service in addition to the quality of items provided by our independent businesses is unmatched by those you find in larger establishments,” she said.
The stores currently participating in Sunday’s event are Carolina Cheese and Provisions, Classy Collections, Curtains and Things, Encore, Fourth and Main on Laurel, Good Day Sunshine, Grady’s Jewelers, Haberdashery, Herdashery, Mustard Seed, Papa’s Genral Store, Sashay on Main, Simple and Clover, Small Town Toys, and Southern Roots. The final list of stores will be posted on Conway Downtown Alive’s social media accounts this week.
The 2021 Conway Downtown Alive Holiday Open House will be 1-4 p.m. Nov. 7.