Historic Downtown eNews  |  Archive
By David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier — Patrons walk by a decorated window during the annual Believe in Bristol Downtown Open House Monday evening.

Bristol's open house a boom for downtown merchants!

November 24, 2010

Bristol's open house a boom for downtown merchants! By Mac Mclean — Published: November 23, 2010

BRISTOL, Va. – Karen Hester whipped up several appetizers and brought in a dozen extra employees to welcome the hundreds of visitors expected to walk by her State Street antiques store Monday during the Downtown Christmas Open House.

“This is our busiest day of the year,” said Hester, the co-owner of Cranberry Lane and Hester’s Country Market on State Street. “We have folks who come from all over to take part in this event.”

The open house started as a simple customer appreciation night about three decades ago, said Christina Blevins, executive director of Believe in Bristol, an organization dedicated to boosting the Twin City’s downtown.

But after Blevins’ agency started managing the event 11 years ago, it now lasts more than two hours and includes carolers, free carriage rides through downtown, and a chance for children to get their pictures taken with Santa Claus.

Bristol resident Phillip Cowan said he planned to take a carriage ride after he walked out of Inari Wines on Piedmont Avenue with his wife and daughter.

“She saw it [open house] online today and thought it was something for us to check out,” he said, motioning toward his wife.

Cowan said he doesn’t shop downtown that often, but he was carrying a couple of shopping bags Monday night.

Blevins said the event – traditionally held the Monday before Thanksgiving – is the busiest day most downtown businesses have each year.

Just about every downtown shopkeeper and restaurateur keeps their doors open a few hours later to cater to those who come by for the festivities, Blevins said. They also serve their would-be customers snacks and drinks to thank them for their visit.

Hester served several items from her store’s gourmet foods section to her guests with a nice cup of warm cider. In anticipation of the crowds, she also increased the number of people who typically work at her store on a Monday from three or four to 17.

“It’s a great way to start your holiday season,” said Hester, who uses the open house to thank her customers for their support and get them thinking about what they want to buy their loved ones this Christmas.

gmclean@bristolnews.com | (276) 645-2518