Retailers in St. Jacobs had it tough this past summer, with moving road closures and less-than-helpful signage for detours, but now the village’s business improvement area group (BIA) is ready to bounce back.
From Nov. 17 to 20, the St. Jacobs BIA is hosting their annual Christmas Sparkles shopping event with that added yuletide touch to entice shoppers back into the village.
Ed Denyer is the chair of the group and owner of Eco Café. He says it was a difficult summer for businesses along King Street and beyond, with watermain replacements, new roads, lighting and more. But, he says progress isn’t always painless.
“For some, the summer went well and for others, it didn’t go as well. Being realistic, though, it was a tough summer,” he explained. “The construction, it changes routines, it changes directions, it changes habits. Unfortunately, it is part of what progress brings. In order to make change, we have to live through that process. However, if this is as bad as it is going to be, then it is survivable, but it wasn’t ideal and it never is.”
Throughout the summer, businesses had to step up and create their own buzz, especially with the reduced foot traffic and inaccessibility of some parts of downtown St. Jacobs.
“It was challenging, but that is here, there, everywhere. Go to Waterloo and try and get around. It is hard, but in the end we all just had to market our businesses. You have to do that extra,” said Denyer, adding that while it isn’t over yet, it is close. “I think that we have made it through the worst of it, but next year will bring more challenges.”
Craig Miller, a BIA member and owner of Xclusive Elements just across the street from Eco Café, notes the St. Jacobs Sparkles event is the busiest four days of the year for local retailers and will do wonders for those who struggled during construction season.
“We are bringing back things that we know people will enjoy. The horse-drawn carriage rides is something that we have been doing for years, and same with the Victorian Carolers,” he said. “We want to be a destination. We are all putting in that little extra special touch this year that people come to the village to enjoy. I know for a lot of us, it takes us two to three weeks to get set up for St. Jacobs Sparkles. It isn’t just us tossing a tree up. It is more than that. We get the fresh garland, our planters all set up, we have four Christmas trees up in our store.”
Miller says he can’t wait to see shoppers in his store for the St. Jacobs Sparkles event.
“We love all the local support and that is why we try to make it as entertaining and welcoming as possible,” he shared.
This year, carolers from the St. Jacobs Public School choir will also be roaming the streets singing for shoppers and sightseers. The St. Jacobs firefighters will be on hand, with some help from Denyer and Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, brewing up some cider around a toasty fire.
While ripping up roads may be finished for this year, it isn’t the end of the construction for the village. Plans are in place to finish the project starting next spring, bringing in a whole new battle for sales. The St. Jacobs BIA is already on the job though, planning special events for the new year. It is just one of the items on the agenda at the next BIA meeting on Dec. 1.
St. Jacobs Sparkles starts next Thursday, Nov. 17, and runs until Nov. 20. For more information and shopping hours, visit www.stjacobs.com.