Bunkie Chamber of Commerce set to host Christmas Open House on Nov. 19
Annual tradition encourages people to #ShopLocal
BUNKIE, La. (KALB) - Just in time for the holidays on Thursday, November 19, the Bunkie Chamber of Commerce is hosting their Christmas Open House, a more than 20-year tradition that’s still going strong.
Wilbert Carmouche works for the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism and says the open house is good for tourism and business.
“My favorite part of the open house is seeing people moving smartly because of COVID following the mandate, regulations of six-foot distancing and the mask,” Carmouche said. “To hear those cash registers ring for the businesses, because so many times those local businesses are eager to help for sponsorships, little league teams. And the money stays locally when you shop with a local business.”
Local small business owners have taken a hit from the pandemic and hurricanes. When you shop local, you’re supporting the community you live in. That can help revive the economy from the challenging year we’ve all seen. You can shop at several businesses along and near Main Street. The Christmas Open House has local florists, custom and fine jewelry, antiques, food and more. Business owners say they’re excited about the opportunity.
“It’s very exciting,” Griffin’s Antiques and Main Street Market Co-Owner Leslie Catherine Merrick said. “I have a business of my own across the street. For the last three years, I’ve been here with Leslie Catherine’s Custom and Fine Jewelry and every year it’s been a great success.”
JoJo’s Flowers Owner Crisdensa Compton shared the feeling of excitement.
“It feels amazing! We enjoy serving our community and the surrounding areas, and we’re excited about our open house event,” Compton said.
A few blocks down Main Street is Brenda Ducote’s business called Sadie’s Treasure Box, named after her dog.
“This time of the year is just wonderful and we’re just so excited that everybody can get together and enjoy sales, just seeing and meeting each other and just coming together for shopping like everybody loves to do,” Ducote said.
“It’s bringing people together smartly. Marksville is doing it with our scavenger hunt,” Carmouche said. “You’re not having everybody centralized in one location, you’re offering them opportunities on their own, to stroll around the downtown areas and go and purchase their items, which helps locally, but doing it on the smart level.”
He wants everyone to come visit Avoyelles Parish and look out for their Trail to Treasures event coming soon.
The Bunkie Chamber of Commerce President Lele Soileau said it’s always important to shop local.
“You’re supporting your community because they’re investing in your community and you’re reinvesting in your community. It’s knowing that you can shop and support your friend, your family and vice versa,” Soileau said. “I find Bunkie is very good about that and that we really tried to drive home the last few years that we’ve got a great local grocery store, so many wonderful little gift shops and two pharmacies that are owned and operated by people in Bunkie.”
According to Soileau, the Christmas Open House provides that good hometown feel that a lot of people have grown up with and still want to experience. This includes knowing who they bought their medicine from or a little gift from a boutique and keeping a family tradition alive by purchasing local items.
“There’s just a really good support system, and I think that’s the main thing, especially with COVID right now. Small businesses need that support,” Soileau said. “We’re seeing nationwide businesses going out of business, struggling, looking to survive, especially after having a booming economy for the last two years. So, it’s just something that we all need to do, and we should be doing it on a daily basis.”
Soileau said Bunkie’s Christmas Open House started more than 20 years ago with Steele’s Florist and Jewelry. It has happened on the Thursday night the week before Thanksgiving ever since then.
“They just started having a little open house, and they would have drinks, food, great gifts and music. And people just kind of started coming in and then it expanded, and it became a community event. So, we’ve seen that it just kind of grew.”
She said the event brought in people from other towns like Cottonport, Evergreen and Marksville. There are more than seven stores participating in the open house.
“It’s wonderful to see at this time of the year, people walking and moving and shopping in our city,” Soileau said.
“We really want to encourage people at this time to be smart to practice safe, social distancing. Listen to the guidelines, it’s very, very important. We’re so proud of our stores, they have really, really been emphasizing,” Soileau said. Normally it would be a bigger scaled event with more food, drinks, and singing, but instead this year, “We’re going to have music, or we’ll have like little takeaway bags of treats and goodies.”
For elderly shoppers or those concerned about being in crowds, some stores are offering discounts throughout the week. On Thursday, November 19 some vendors will offer deals all day.
“We would really encourage those that are maybe not as comfortable coming out in a big social environment setting to go ahead and take advantage of those day trips into Bunkie,” Soileau said.
The business owners have so much to offer and said their favorite part is seeing everyone come out to shop local to support the local economy.
“People are wanting to get out. They’re excited to get out, but this year has been quite a challenge with us being open on October 6. We had to be ready to be prepared to meet and greet people in the proper way with all of the restrictions,” Merrick said. “So, it’s been a challenge, but everybody has cooperated. Everybody still wants to come out and shop.”
At Griffin’s, people can eat and shop with all the vendors in the building that have unique things. Merrick described it as a mini-mall.
“We have several different pies, we do shapes. There are gourmet brownies. We are also taking orders for briskets and pies throughout the holidays,” Merrick said.
Merrick said she’s looking forward to “the people and when they come and eat and their eyes light up. I’m just watching them say, ‘Oh, look at this, look at that.’ They will find something for everyone here.”
At JoJo’s Flower Shop, Compton said their work is special because they put their all into it.
“We put our being into our flower arrangements. We often get testimonies from customers that really express how pleased they were with our arrangement.”
JoJo’s Store Manager Gilda Compton shared why she thinks it’s important to shop local.
“It’s always important to keep the money flowing in the community so that it can be recirculated, and everybody will benefit from having the support of the people in the community, rather than going outside and spending the money,” Gilda said.
JoJo’s Flower Shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and will be offering the same open house discounts all day long.
“We’ve got up to 50% off our merchandise, and our sale will last through November 24,” Compton said.
Brenda Ducote agrees that it’s important to shop local also.
“It helps those of us that are not in big cities, especially in small towns like we have,” Ducote said. “It’s just very helpful that the community supports each other because when we get a business, of course, we can also share that among other people.”
Ducote said Sadie’s Treasure Box has unique gifts.
“You will find something for everybody over here,” Ducote said. “There’s nobody that’s on your Christmas list, even the person that’s hard to buy for...we have the gift here. And if you don’t find any of the gifts, we always have gift certificates available.”
With a challenging year, Ducote shared a message to her community.
“We’re facing something that we’ve never faced before. So, we just go with recommendations: wear your mask, social distance and keep that in mind. But don’t let it stop you from having a wonderful time, even though we have those precautions, we still need to come together this time of the year.”
Ducote said every year Bunkie’s Christmas Open House gets better.
“It does and it’s such a great atmosphere when people come together. It’s just wonderful. If you’ve never attended one of these open houses, I highly recommend it, just with meeting new people just coming together it’s awesome,” Ducote said.
Sadie’s Treasure Box has a lot of specials, and according to Ducote, you can get some good company, great refreshments and wonderful gifts that can be bought at great prices at this time of the year.
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