Local Stores Offer Unique Shopping Ideas
Local store owners in Maplewood share some of their thoughts on the holiday shopping season.
As Bilal Ali and his family strolled through Maplewood Tuesday afternoon, there was one thing on their mind: shopping. Venturing beyond their usual forays into malls and shopping centers, the Ali family wanted to get a taste of local St. Louis.
"We're here visiting my wife's family, and we wanted to go shopping where we didn't have to put up with parking lots and huge malls," Ali said.
Downtown Maplewood provided a welcome change of scenery for the family. Ali's wife particularly enjoyed Maven, a store specializing in handmade soaps and bath products. The store has attracted an increasingly larger client base according to Kate Bethel, owner of the specialty soap shop.
"Lots of people have come in and specifically said they're looking for gifts that are local and handmade," Bethel said. "And they want to go somewhere different from the big box stores."
While shops like Maven have a strong presence on the web to attract customers, other shop owners who are internet and blog savvy do not see their websites or Facebook pages as assets to their business.
Nancy Kassabaum, one of three sisters who own the antique shop Roots, said that although she has a blog, most of her customers are ones she directly contacts through email. Many of them Kassabaum personally knows and frequently sees.
"Our email list has about 300 people," Kassabaum said. "While we have a few younger customers, most of the people who come in are usually middle-age and do not rely so much on the internet."
Kassabaum anticipates that Maplewood's ninth annual Christmas Tree Walk on Dec. 3 will attract more customers than usual to her shop, which is currently garnished in the holiday spirit—one can distinctly smell the minty candy canes placed throughout her store.
Ali said the holiday season is a time for family gatherings and food.
Seamus "John" O'Mally, owner of O'Mally's Irish Gift Shop, is a testament to the importance of family traditions. Both of his parents immigrated to the United States in the 1940's from their native Ireland, and now O'Mally continues to share his rich culture with the St. Louis community.
"People come in for the holidays," O'Mally said. "And, of course, March is always a good season."
Customers are welcomed to handwoven scarves, hats and original soccer jerseys from Irish teams that seem to be wedged into every corner of O'Mally's store.
Ali said he hopes to go take the family out to other distinct St. Louis neighborhoods in the coming days. Thankfully, the local shopping venture has alleviated Ali's angst toward the redundancy of buying gifts and items that is all too common elsewhere.