For obvious reasons, participating merchants are looking forward to this year’s 8th annual Shop Small 01588 in downtown Whitinsville and environs even more than usual.
This includes Christine Guanipa of Little Man Originals on Church St., one of the event’s organizers, and Kathy Tonry of Katalina’s Boutique on Providence Road, both of whom “pivoted” nicely—as they put it—as a means of shepherding their shops through the pandemic.
All of the following businesses have signed on for the 2021 version of the popular retailing adventure, which again this fall will run for a whole week, Saturday, November 27 through Saturday, December 4:
Lulu’s Jewelry & Gifts
The Crafty Nest DIY
The Green Plate
Whitin Community Center
The Daily Grind Barber Shop
Schotanus Design Center
Wood Shop at the 933
Features of Shop Small 01588 for 2021 include a Passport and the always popular Coloring Contest. By obtaining six or more Passport stamps in stores taking part in Shop Small 01588 and returning them by December 4 to Schotanus Design Center or the Whitin Community Center, shoppers become eligible for a drawing to win a Grand Gift Basket filled with goods donated by local merchants. “The Whitin Community Center does a good job coordinating the Coloring Contest,” Ms. Guanipa said.
The pressures Ms. Guanipa and Ms. Tonry faced in keeping their shops going during COVID-19 mirror those experienced by other retailers in 01588 over the past year and a half.
As the pandemic took hold, “we had to pivot,” Ms. Tonry said at Katalina’s Boutique on October 28. Katalina’s shifted from a brick-and-mortar focus to a “Facebook Live” emphasis. This paid immediate dividends, she said.
“We had a show two times a week, on Tuesday and Thursday night at eight o’clock, for one hour,” Ms. Tonry said. “A whole lot of people ended up doing it. It caught on. It was crazy. The good thing is, we had a substantial following to draw on, on Facebook, 5000 followers. I was doing it from my home and I would have fifty to seventy bags ready from people ordering online and my son and I would deliver these to their homes free of charge.
“We did this the whole time we were closed and we also offered pickups on Saturday mornings, like a drive-through.”
Ms. Tonry said dealing with the pandemic was “very much an unknown. We closed before the state told us to. Our vendors were awesome. They were very lenient with our orders which was a big relief.”
Katalina’s is back to its usual hum.
“We just had a huge denim event, our best ever, and we are doing giveaways every week. We just celebrated seven years, with no government money during the pandemic. It was really scary for a while.
For Shop Small, Katalina’s will be offering a mystery discount on one item.
Like Ms. Tonry, Ms. Guanipa had to adapt quickly, after returning from a trade show in March of 2020.
“I pivoted and started making facemasks, for retail and wholesale customers” she said, “and when that slowed down I started making sleep masks and I sold a dozen right away.”
She also plugged into online wholesale through the fair.com website.
“You get your space and set up shop and I did that with deep-rest eye pillows,” she said, of that arrangement.
As someone who has been instrumental in the growth of Shop Small 01588, Ms. Guanipa is always cheering for the street and her fellow merchants.
In pointing to the success Heather Glode has enjoyed at Lulu’s, for instance, she said, “Heather is a super hard worker. She is all about making this town strong and she is busting it with the hours and now she’s doing folklore merchandise.”
For Eleni Polymeros, who is managing Ms. Glode’s Folklore shop at 102 Church St., Shop Small 01588 is a chance to experience the event from the other side of the sales counter.
“I’ve always lived in Northbridge,” Ms. Polymeros said. “I did a year at Worcester State and money got tight. Heather had a job posting on Indeed. I interviewed and she was the nicest lady I’ve ever met. She’s so busy with Lulu’s, I’m glad I can help her out.”
Although the Saturday after Thanksgiving will undoubtedly still result in the largest crowds for Shop Small 01588, shoppers have an entire week to take advantage of the promotion.