The Star-Herald

Small business owners prepare for ‘very different’ holiday shopping season

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – For many shoppers, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new norms, including curbside pickups, increased online ordering and social distancing. But many business owners in Presque Isle are optimistic, despite the challenges, about shoppers turning out this holiday season to support their favorite businesses.

Cathy Beaulieu has owned Wilder’s Jewelry on Main Street in Presque Isle since 1996, though the business was originally founded by Ike Wilder in 1950. Like others in town, her business was temporarily closed at the start of the statewide lockdown and has required shoppers wear masks or face coverings since May.

Most local shoppers, she said, have remained supportive through all the changes and challenges that the pandemic has brought about.

“We’ve been doing very well, actually better than we expected,” Beaulieu said, as several shoppers browsed through the store on Nov. 13. “We appreciate everyone who has been supporting us.”

With the holidays fast approaching, Beaulieu expects that more people will take advantage of curbside and online shopping options. Some people have even begun their holiday shopping early.

“More people have been calling us before they come to the store or shopping by video calls,” Beaulieu said. “There’s still going to be a Christmas shopping season; it’ll just look very different this year.”

For the 18th year, Beaulieu is helping local businesses kick off the holiday shopping season with Main Street Mania on Friday, Nov. 20. Typically, various businesses will offer special sales from 4 to 10 p.m on the Friday before Thanksgiving. But this year each business will set their own hours that will depend on the size of their building and how many people they are allowed to have in their stores at any given time. 

Beaulieu recommends that shoppers contact individual businesses for more information on how they will participate in Main Street Mania. This year the participating businesses will include Wilder’s Jewelry, Country Collectibles, Bike, Board & Ski, The Olde Rustic Attic, Governor’s Restaurant, Pat’s Pizza, The Cutting Edge Hair Salon, Vitality+, AromaTouch with Beth Williams, Believe Tutoring & Reiki and Arbonne with Nancy Watson.

Country Collectibles owner Paula Shaw smiles as she shovels the front of her store on Main Street in Presque Isle last winter. (David Marino Jr. | The Star-Herald)

At Country Collectibles, owner Paula Shaw said that she has seen many people still supporting small businesses during the pandemic. She encourages people to shop local during the holiday season to help owners ride out the pandemic successfully.

“It seems like more people have been trying to shop local and start their Christmas shopping earlier,” Shaw said. “If folks want local businesses to stay open, they have to shop there.”

The Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce in Presque Isle. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star-Herald)

LaNiece Sirois, executive director of the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, expects that many businesses will adapt to the pandemic by adjusting how they hold sales during the holiday shopping season.

“I think there will be a move away from a single Black Friday sale and toward sales throughout the month, so that there isn’t a big crowd trying to get all the deals at once,” Sirois said. “For a lot of people this year, it has been all about moving through the changes.”

Beaulieu urged people to take advantage of what local businesses have to offer, not just for their own fun shopping experiences, but for the survival of their favorite businesses.

“It all depends on what type of community you want to live in and what you want to see on your Main Street. Do you want to see a barren Main Street or one with businesses all around you?” Beaulieu said. “To help businesses survive, we need to shop local.”


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