By Eric Dresser
Dresser is owner of the Calhoun & Kipp store in downtown Roanoke.
As the owner of a retail store in downtown Roanoke for the past 20 years, I finally have the time to reflect not so much on the past year, but on Saturday Dec. 21, which for retail is now known as “Panic Saturday,” being only a few days before Christmas and crunch time for buying gifts.
The day before a now-retired owner of a well-known downtown store stopped in to say hello and reflected on how hard it had been for him to enjoy the Christmas spirit when he had the store. His thoughts were spot on as I have thought the very same. December sales are critical for getting through the next several months which are very quiet for retail. So in December you worry about having enough inventory on hand, what will sell and especially the weather. Bad weather means a loss of sales that generally you cannot make up, making January and February that much harder. This year we had several cold rainy days, most notably the cancellation of the Christmas parade.
So when Saturday, Dec. 21, came, the best I could do was hope for the best. As it turned out we had a great sales day and maybe that makes it a bit easier to reflect on the following.
Throughout the day we certainly had a lot of wonderful people coming in and shopping. As I pick out everything in the store and have my own artwork there, each purchase is meaningful to me. With many people coming and going it is impossible to spend a lot of time chatting with people and good moments often get lost in the crowd. But at the very end of the day when things had slowed down, four people stood out that meant a lot to me and helped me enjoy a bit of the spirit of Christmas.
A very delightful husband and wife came in and found a number of items for gifts and we chatted a bit about things — they have a small business also understand the ups and downs of business. They left but came back 5 or 10 minutes later and found several more items, and we laughed about “coming back” so soon.
Two young women came in separately and looked around. The first woman bought one of my artworks, and in talking with her she reflected how she and her son, who is now 15, used to come in when he was a small child. She said how much he liked the art in the store and being able look and touch it and how appreciative she was with (I guess) my patience. It meant a lot to me to hear that.
The other young woman took a long time looking around the store but found a pendant and card for her mother to whom she was flying out to see on Christmas Day, and I enjoyed chatting with her.
The last people and sale of the day was a father and teenage daughter who make a tradition of coming to the store, for the third year now, and find something for his wife/mother. They enjoyed that time together and look forward to sharing that time again.
I saw fathers out with their children (sometimes very small children) looking for things for mom, sharing that time together, hopefully creating good memories as they look back. It is those people who made the day a good one.
It is those people who helped me enjoy the spirit of Christmas in an otherwise worrisome month.