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Open houses showcase downtown retailers
web 1207 Holiday open house
Thomas Hill Jewelers sales associate LaVay Sphar, left, discusses rings with shoppers Angela McIntosh and Michelle Thompson during Mondays Holiday Open Houses. - photo by Danielle Hipps

While children made merry at Christmas in the Park on Monday evening, nearby businesses operated under extended hours for the second day of downtown Hinesville’s Holiday Open Houses.

During the event, shoppers received warm greetings, heaping helpings of hospitality and sometimes even treats as community retailers put their best feet forward.

“Open house is not about selling; it’s about meeting and becoming friends,” said Chrisie Hill, owner of Thomas Hill Jewelers. “I think any time you can make people aware that you’re even here, it’s important.

“You know, with the military population, we have so many people who are transient — that is, they move in and then they’re here for two years and then they’re gone — so the open house gives them a chance to come in and know we’re here.”

All day Monday, those who visited Thomas Hill were met with cookies and drinks, as well as the chance to enter a drawing for a store prize. All entries from both Monday’s open house and the one held Saturday, Nov. 19, were passed on to the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, which will hold a drawing today to determine the winner of a $500 shopping spree grand prize.

Thirteen other downtown businesses joined in the open houses, with nine staying open late Monday and five others holding open houses on alternate dates, according to HDDA Executive Director Vicki Davis.

The purpose of the long-standing tradition is to provide the community with a sense of unity while showing residents that they don’t have to travel to Savannah to find great holiday gifts, HDDA program assistant Katrina Sage said.

“I don’t think you can really put a value on an event of this nature,” she said. “Our downtown really has great things to offer the community, and we use the holiday open houses to show them that in just a short drive, you can purchase items such as specialty chocolates, floral arrangements, fine jewelry, formal wear, pottery and home décor, comics, children’s clothing and gifts, gourmet coffee and sandwiches, international cuisine, makeup and beauty supplies, fashion accessories, office supplies and so much more.”

And shopping locally makes a greater contribution to the prosperity of a community, she added. “For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $68 stays in the local economy compared to only $43 if spent at a national chain.”

For Hill, the events have led to a high turnout, with a boost in business as people are looking toward the holidays. It also is an opportunity to raise awareness for other area merchants.

As people shop in Hill’s store, she chats with them about other downtown shops, such as the recently opened Jeff’s Candy Kitchen, or Coastal Kids Clothing and Gifts.

Over at the candy store, owner Jeff Davis said the events have increased traffic and awareness for his store.

“It’s really good,” he said. “A lot of people are visiting, just stopping in to register and then doing some purchasing, so it’s doing my business good.”

Davis is giving away a $50 sampler pack as his individual store drawing, while Thomas Hill gave away four gifts during the first open house and still plans to give away a travel jewelry case.

“We try to refer other people to each other, and if we’re all doing open house on the same day, it encourages people to stay downtown for a longer period of time,” Hill said. “And it’s worth their time to drive downtown. It’s worth their time to stay downtown. People shop at a mall because they go to whatever store they want to go to in one trip. So I think whenever we can do something together, it encourages the community to get more involved with the downtown businesses.”

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