Rethinking local holiday shopping

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Lyman Holmes plays an inverted steel drum, one of gifts for offering at his Wurtsboro shop.

ROSENDALE – As Main Street shops opened on the next to last Saturday before Christmas, Bill Brooks, a barber on the thoroughfare, still had some time to think about his gift-giving strategy this year.

 “My girlfriend, if I don’t get her something,” he said, with a little bit of a laugh, “You know what will happen.”

 Rosendale is a popular destination for festivals such as Frozendale, a winter event, and an international pickle festival Brooks started nearly a quarter century ago.

But the pandemic has stopped these gatherings, and now one of Brooks’ current quandaries rests with shopping local for Christmas or online.

“I am still in a dilemma. I haven’t starting shopping for Christmas. And I was one of those guys, Christmas Eve, and I would be in the store, and they’d be closing in a half-hour, and I am still deciding what I am going to buy,” he said. “So this year, that is probably not going to be the case, which means I have to resort to an online situation ahead of time because things are not coming or delivered like they were. I am going to try and do as much as local [shopping] as possible.”

  About an hour south in Sullivan County, Lyman Holmes, who owns the Canal Towne Emporium in Wurtsboro, was mingling with staff and customers on a Sunday during the heart of the Christmas shopping season.

  “It’s actually been pretty good,” said Holmes, “and what we noticed is that the shopping started early.”

 Wurtsboro is a convenient stop off Route 17, and his store has been in the family for nearly a half-century. “We’ve made it work,” he said. “This is our 45th Christmas.”

Holmes said he gets many customers who travel far just to shop in a store, and his brick-and-mortar approach has held its own against online sales from other stores.

 “It’s going along just fine,” he said. “Competition-wise, we seem to be doing just fine against online sales.”

Holmes does not have an online store, but he said he is working on one. Now the community and surroundings have changed in the Covid era with many summer and seasonal homes becoming permanent residences in an effort to escape the raging virus.

“We have seen a lot of new faces,” said Holmes.

Across street from Holmes’ store, Travis Ogden, a co-owner of the Crystal Connection, a store open now for 13 years, was busy during the holiday season.

  “We’re very fortunate we have been doing very well,” he said. “People are happy to get out, and to be around other people.”