With Christmas on the near horizon, an informal survey of shoppers – more than a few from out-of-town – found a marked appreciation by them for Bastrop stores and the “friendly” residents they said were making their shopping experience in Bastrop even more enjoyable.
With Lost Pines Christmas activities continuing through Dec. 23, the City of Bastrop’s Main Street Program department (headed by Director Sarah O’Brien) and merchants have been teaming up to attract potential shoppers to downtown and beyond. The annual Wine Swirl, held on Dec. 9, followed by the annual Christmas Parade on Dec. 10 – plus the Wassail Fest/Small Business Saturday two weekends before – have been drawing huge crowds.
Many store owners and managers said they were holding in-store events to augment Lost Pines Christmas activities, and to attract additional customers.
Debi Moore, manager at Liberty Glenn, a unique décor store on Main Street, said, “It’s been a very good holiday season,” adding that sales are “up, compared to the same quarter as last year. September through December is a very important part of our (annual) sales and the reason we enjoy operating the store.” Moore said the store had bolstered sales with an Austin-area TV ad (KXAN-TV) and making use of multiple social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
One out-of-town shopper was particularly enjoying shopping at Liberty Glenn. When asked what grabbed her interest among Liberty Glenn’s many home décor items, Barbara Brown, visiting from Onion Creek, exclaimed, “All of it! They have so much inventory of elegant items here – and not just at Christmas season, but this is an all-year-round store for fabulous items. I’ve bought numerous Mark Roberts (elf dolls) that were signed by him here.” Brown also held up a pair of open-ended mittens which she had just bought, referring to them as “texting gloves.”
A new store at Bastrop Station – WB Liquors & Wine – was also prospering. “Every week it’s been getting better,” manager Tony Viera said of sales. “We’re doing better than we anticipated, since our store is relatively new – we opened eight months ago.”
Auto sales were looking good at Bastrop’s Covert Chevrolet Buick GMC along Hwy. 71. Owner Rox Covert (along with his brothers Duke and Danay) said, “Sales have been outstanding. We’re up 19 percent in sales for used and new (vehicles), from this same period last year.” Covert added, “The community of Bastrop has been a treasured gift for us.” Rox and his brothers are the fourth generation of Coverts anchoring the family business.
At Donna’s by Design on Main Street, Austin visitors Susan DiLorenzo and Marie McKenzie were enjoying their shopping day. “This is the first shop we’ve stopped at. We had lunch at Main Street Café, which was excellent. And the people in Bastrop are so friendly,” DiLorenzo said. Moments later McKenzie bought some garden-art vases from assistant manager Ginger Baldwin, who appraised the shopping climate: “In terms of the number of people coming in to the store, it’s been awesome,” Baldwin said. “We’ve been doing okay (on sales), but it could be better.” Baldwin said one of the comments she had heard most from recent shoppers – several of whom said they were Bastrop residents – had been, “I didn’t even know all of this was down here,” referring to the many shops and restaurants in downtown Bastrop.
“Sales for the year itself have been slow, and we’re down about 5 percent during the season from post-Thanksgiving to right now,” said Drusilla Rogers, owner of the popular Sugar Shack across the Colorado River Bridge from downtown. “But I’m expecting a huge turnout for our Santa Nights, which run from December 13 to December 17th.” Children can have their picture taken with Santa during the event. Rogers encouraged the public to “come on down and have a free sample of our handmade fudge.”
Chris Parachini, owner of Bastrop Goldsmith Silversmith at the corner of Main and Chestnut, had a nearly full shop on a warm Tuesday (Dec. 13), but he said he had been hoping for better business overall. “It was slow recently because of (people staying home to watch) the election, and because of the cold weather,” Parachini said. But he added that with expected spells of warmer weather the number of shoppers tends to pick up, and he was optimistic.
Marc Conselman, owner of The Texas Boot Company said initial sales had also been slow, but it has picked up. “This year has been a slower starting year for holiday shoppers, but it started in earnest on Friday (Dec. 9) with the influx of cold weather, which generally seems to remind shoppers that Christmas is right around the corner. I don't expect 2016 to end as strong as 2015, which was a very strong year, but it looks to be finishing up strong, too.” Conselman added, “The western-wear industry has been impacted a little by the lower price in oil for the past year, and we are coming off an incredible run of exotic boots being all the rage. Because of that, we're offering some deep discounts on exotics this year – much more so than we've ever offered before.”