Lights On and new retailers spur optimism

Little elves help stores promote local sales

LOCAL SHOPPING Lola Espinoza checks out possible gifts at the Guatemala Shop in Hollister.

There is a new elf in town that wants county residents to remember to shop local this holiday season.

Called “Holly Benito” by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce, which is behind the shop local initiative, the plush elf is displayed at 17 retailers in Hollister and San Juan Bautista.

Wherever the little elf is displayed shoppers can enter to win gift certificates at participating retailers during a special drawing the first week of December.

“This is the third year we have done a shop local campaign and the first time we’ve used the elf,” said Juli A. Vieira, chamber president and CEO.

The campaign runs through Nov. 30.

Participating businesses include Calvista Insurance Agency, Inc., DLG Printing, Dona Esthers Mexican Restaurant, Irma’s Fashions, The Farm Bertuccio’s Market, Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor, San Benito Bene, Bill’s Bullpen Baseball Cards & Comics, A Tool Shed Equipment Rentals and Ohana Shave Ice.

Drawing winners will be announced on the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page next month.

The shop local campaign coincides with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25, a nationwide initiative started in 2010 by American Express.

Amalia Ellis, executive director of the Hollister Downtown Association said a handful of downtown shops including Ohana Shave Ice and Bella Charm, a boutique that sells “trendy bling to western swing” will be participating.

Also on Saturday is Hollister’s Lights On Celebration, which Ellis said is another reason for locals to stay all day in the downtown district.

“Shop Small Saturday and the Lights On celebration is a big draw for downtown businesses. We have over 10,000 people attend and it’s an all-day event so historically people have dinner at downtown restaurants, visit the shops and stay for the parade. It’s a huge opportunity to have people come and stay downtown and spend some money,” she said.

The downtown district also recently welcomed its newest business, the Aroma Cellars wine tasting room at 650 San Benito St., Suite 150. The grand opening of the hot new venue that features fine wines, Italian food and live music was on Nov. 9.

The Epicenter Wine Room on San Benito Street is set to open in the coming months, as well as the GardenMart, a combination nursery and wine tasting room on Seventh Street.

Vieira said the new business openings is a very positive outlook for the community.

“There is more activity,” she said. “But I really have to stress that we have a lot of commuters and I hope that the community stays involved and shops local, instead of doing all their shopping before they drive home.”

The new wine tasting rooms and success of downtown events like Lights On Celebration, the Hollister motorcycle rally and the summer Street Festival car show has inspired Ellis to work on a new campaign that will hopefully launch in the not so distant future.

“It is an “eat, play, shop downtown Hollister” campaign,” said Ellis. “We want people to know they can do wine tasting, see a performance at the Granada, and then have dinner at a local restaurant. We want people to spend time and make a day of it.”

As for shopping local this holiday season, Ellis said the benefits to the community are numerous.

“It helps support little mom-and-pop shops and restaurants and the sales tax revenue stays here instead of going to big box stores or online retailers,” said Ellis. “f we get that revenue, it keeps our town looking nice. It invests in our community and economic vitality,”


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