Merchants come together to spearhead new event on Nov. 16th & 17th
They hit the bricks going door-to-door with an idea to bring merchants together in downtown Zionsville to give shoppers a head start on their holiday shopping and home decorating. It was through four local merchants with distinct personalities and diverse businesses that the idea was born, and now “Heart of the Village Holiday Open House” has become a reality. “We had no agenda other than to help each other help ourselves and to get the word out that Zionsville is still a destination town,” say co-organizer, Janelle Morrison.
Coming together of merchants and Sullivan Munce
What’s unique about this event is that it is merchant-driven with business owners coming together who normally compete for business with each other. “We wanted to do something out of the box. If we, as merchants, didn’t take the initiative, it wasn’t going to happen,” says co-organizer Steve Schwartz. An event in the fall created a vision that launched these business owners into action. “We talked about doing something like this for a couple of years, but our inspiration came after Fashion Night Out, which we put together in three days. It put a fire in us to say, ‘What’s next’?” says Schwartz.
On the horizon was The Artisans’ Fare at the SullivanMunce, which the organizers saw as a prime partnership opportunity to create a complimentary event in Zionsville for people who were already in town. “We saw the Artisans’ Fare as a perfect platform to organize a collective effort to put together this event. Over 200 people attended the Artisans’ Fare last year and we want to draw those people into downtown to continue their shopping and dining experience after they attend the Artisans’ Fare,” says Morrison.
A coordinated effort
This isn’t the first time merchants have come together to create a new event. The well-known Christmas in the Village had similar grassroot beginnings. “Over 30 years ago, merchants came together to promote the town and celebrate the holidays with Christmas in the Village,” says Carol Marquiss, Zionsville Merchants Asscociation (ZMA) president. “It has a small town feel with people and businesses working together.”
This premiere event is also about merchants working together to benefit the town. Coordinating efforts and resources is nothing new but usually done on a smaller scale as clusters of merchants plan and promote events together. “It’s not unusual for stores to cross promote and help each other. It makes it easy and cost effective for small business owners to come together and pool our resources to create something larger,”says co-organizer, Lesley Jane Hunt. “It’s good to be able to work together. I hope we can do more of these events like Heart of the Village.”
Working together was one of the primary reasons some merchants supported this new event. For business owner Doug Pendleton, the “Wine Guy” of Grapevine Cottage, the week before Thanksgiving is his busiest time of the year so extra marketing is not needed, but he joined the effort saying, “We try to support anything merchants do to come together to bring traffic to downtown Zionsville.”
Get the ball rolling
With any new idea, there is often resistance. Tight budgets by some Village merchants prevented participation, along with organizers not being able to reach all business owners while walking the town to gain support for the event. However, overall there has been a positive response with 32 restaurants and retailers on board. “We just needed to get the ball rolling. We are humbled by how many businesses have turned out, bought into the marketing package, and asked how they could help. There is excitement and a renewed energy,” says Morrison.
Many merchants expressed gratitude for the organizers in stepping up to get something going, “It started with the core planners – Janelle, Steve, Lesley and Drew – having a wonderful idea to pull the Village together in an unusual way,” says business owner Tom Casalini, “I’ve been part of the Village for 40 years and whenever you have an opportunity to promote the comradery of the Village and showcase Zionsville, I want to be a part of it.”
Jump on holiday shopping and decorating
One draw for business owners is the timing of this event, as holiday season promotions now begin before Thanksgiving and many want to get a jump on their shopping and decorating. “This event will kick-off the holiday season and promote the well being of the town. Hopefully, it will become an annual event,”says co-organizer, Drew Kogan.
His antique business is one of the oldest on Main Street, after 42 years, and he has learned that holiday home decorating often begins before or over Thanksgiving. “We get a lot of one-of-a-kind items and people come in early for them,” says Kogan. “This year we will have unique Christmas items and wreath orders available at the open house.”
Something for everyone
“What’s unique is that everybody is doing something different with their own in-store promotions. It’s 32 different events packaged into one!” says Hunt.
The organizers, as well as many participating merchants, hope they can continue to come together to help promote downtown Zionsville. Schwartz summarizes, “It’s so refreshing to see such a great response from the merchants. Maybe this will be the beginning of many things to follow!”