Shops, shoppers ready for holiday season
Pamela Walls and Traci Weathers of Society Girls Shop hang some lights in their front window. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 6:16AM
OAK PARK — Looking up at the strands of lights adorning the trees outside her Eastgate Café, owner Olya Dailey said decorating the street is worth it to see people smile when they notice the lights.
“For us, this is a huge thing,” she said Friday of the lights and luminaries dotting the street for the Oak Park Arts District’s Holiday Lights event on Harrison Street. Galleries and shops kicked off the holiday shopping season Friday and Saturday with open houses and seasonal decorations.
Local organizations are hosting an array of holiday events around Oak Park this season. At 6 p.m. Nov. 23, Santa Claus will make his first appearance in Scoville Square, 137 N. Oak Park Ave., for the Avenue Business Association’s Christmas tree lighting, said Deb Sloan, Scoville Square marketing director.
Within the Scoville Square lobby, Santa will be available for pictures and Christmas gift requests from noon-4 p.m. Nov. 24 and each Saturday through Dec. 22. Dec. 8 will be “an extra special day,” featuring snow inside the building, she added.
From 4-5 p.m. each Saturday, Avenue restaurants will serve drinks, appetizers or desserts in the lobby, offering something fun for adults, too, Sloan said.
Throughout the holiday season, “Dear Santa” letters can be picked up at Avenue businesses and dropped in a custom-made Santa mailbox stationed in front of Scoville Square, Sloan said.
On Dec. 1, Winterfest and the cookie walk kick off the holiday season from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the hospitality tent on Marion Street in downtown Oak Park.
For $10, those taking part in the cookie walk get a souvenir tin and map of participating businesses, and can pick up cookies from 55 downtown businesses, Downtown Oak Park Executive Director Max Williams said.
He called it a classic, straightforward event: Each business hands out a different cookie made by local bakeries – Cheryl’s Cookies, Prairie Bread Kitchen and Sugar Fixé Patisserie – and people collect the cookies in the commemorative tins.
The cookie walk cost doubled over last year because the number of participating businesses increased from 40 to 55, Downtown Oak Park Marketing Director Shanon Williams said.
Max Williams said that’s partially due to new businesses opening, but also the event’s popularity.
Free hot cocoa and coffee also will be available at the hospitality tent. Santa Claus and carolers will stroll downtown streets, and musicians, storytellers and a magician can be found inside local businesses.
“It’s kind of a really nice day to get out and explore downtown Oak Park and our variety of businesses,” Max Williams said. “In every which way, we’re trying to keep this as locally focused as possible.”
Shanon Williams said between 1,000 and 2,000 people tend to turn out for the event. Five hundred tins will be available while supplies last, she said, limit one per family.
Though it’s typically not a big shopping day for the downtown area, cookie distribution offers businesses a steady stream of foot traffic, Shanon Williams said.
“It’s more getting the exposure,” she said.
Another Downtown Oak Park event, Home for the Holidays, offers more seasonal activities. The event, held from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 15 on Marion Street, includes a free showing of “The Grinch” at Lake Theatre, hot cocoa, free sleigh rides, carolers and another appearance by Santa Claus.
Max Williams said local merchants are feeling positive about holiday spending this year, and have said people are shopping early.
“There seems to be a really nice buzz,” he said, mentioning the push to support local businesses on Nov. 24, dubbed Small Business Saturday.
Laura Maychruk, owner of The Buzz Café, said Holiday Lights tends to be popular in the community, though it’s gotten tougher over the years as merchants deal with more competition.
The night of Nov. 16, people browsed the art and gifts in galleries and shops along Harrison Street, while live music played at The Buzz Café, Eastgate Café and Val’s Halla Records.
Liz Gaylord, artist and owner of Harrison Works, said the event reminds people to support local businesses. She said she’s developed a reputation as a place where people can get something special.
“And I think more and more people are feeling that way. They want that unique little gift,” Gaylord said.
She said she expects shoppers will be optimistic about holiday spending following the recent re-election of President Barack Obama.
Friends Pam Hooker, Claire Ellis and Marlene Scott echoed the same sentiments, but also hoped people would focus more on charitable giving this year.
Ellis said she’s become annoyed that the holiday shopping season seems to begin so early in the fall.
“So I’m kind of a Scrooge because of it,” she joked.