Haswell is co-owner of Stomping Grounds on Exchange Street in Geneva. She is coordinating the committee planning the second annual downtown open house Nov. 30 and Dec. 1
FLT: You had the first downtown holiday open house a year ago. You’ve now announced the second. Why did you and the committee decide to bring it back?
HASWELL: We were really overwhelmed — pleasantly overwhelmed — with the success of the first open house, and I don’t think that there was any way that we wouldn’t at least try to meet last year’s success, and hopefully try to improve upon it.
FLT: What made it a success last year?
HASWELL: The holiday spirit that was evident on that day, I think, filled us all with a great sense of joy and pride in community. But, additionally, it was successful for the merchants financially, which had been the primary goal — to support downtown commerce.
FLT: Did this all start with casual conversations?
HASWELL: Well, sort of. In the summer of 2011, I had been going around introducing myself to our neighbors downtown, since we had just opened. During the course of those conversations, people mentioned different things that they do at different junctures throughout the year. A lot of people seemed to have holiday open houses of one sort or another and the idea was born to try to combine efforts and put those all at the same date and at the same time.
FLT: Are any sales statistics available from last year’s event?
HASWELL: I can’t share those numbers because I don’t know them for different businesses. What I can tell you is that a lot of the merchants reported record-breaking days.
The official day was Dec. 1, which was the Friday. Some businesses carried that over into the Saturday, and I have to say, Stomping Grounds was busy both Friday and Saturday.
FLT: So this year it will be Nov. 30 and Dec. 1?
HASWELL: That’s right. Because we saw so much traffic both days last year, we decided to officially make it two days this year. This will make it easier for folks who work during the day or who don’t want to keep the kids up late to join in the fun.
FLT: What will this year’s open house feature?
HASWELL: A lot of the basics that we did last year will be repeated this year. We’ll have horse-drawn carriage rides. We’ll have hopefully some food and drink supplied by the merchants in different stores, workshops, free gift-wrapping. ... Last year we had some music, but we’re looking to add to that this year by having, hopefully, different groups appear on different street corners on the hour. We’re currently searching for people who’d like to participate in that.
FLT: Holiday music?
HASWELL: Definitely want it to have, let’s say, a holiday emphasis. People want to hear carols, and we want to give them carols.
We also will have Santa appearing at different shops and stops throughout the day. Hope to be able to have some photos done with Santa at some location to be determined, and maybe a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” things like that.
Different businesses last year did different workshops, various workshops — bow making at Don’s Own Flower Shop and things like that — so we hope to have that scheduled throughout the day as well.
FLT: Do you know yet how many businesses will participate?
HASWELL: Last year, we had 46 sponsors, and it was so positively received that I’m hoping to maybe double that.
The sky’s the limit.
FLT: We have some new businesses downtown now.
HASWELL: There are new businesses downtown. I want to invite some of the organizations, the library and the historical society, things like that, to join in whatever way makes sense for them, so I think we can broaden the reach that way. The Smith Opera House is already committed to participating.
FLT: Any changes from last year?
HASWELL: We think we’re just broadening it, expanding on it. We have more support from BID, financial support from BID and the city this year to work with than we had last year, so I hope to be able to spread the word farther and wider and hopefully get a great turnout.
FLT: Any idea how many customers came last year?
HASWELL: No, and that’s one thing that I’d really like to figure out a way to track this year, if possible. ... I know that there were times in our shop when I just could not walk from one end of the store to the other, like literally, because there were so many people. And I heard that the streets were very busy, too.
FLT: Will the city’s tree lighting happen during the open house, like it did last year?
HASWELL: Yes. ... that’ll be Nov. 30. ... It’s a great way to show the businesses and the municipality and the public all working together to create something really beautiful.
FLT: Why did you decide to get involved in an event like this?
HASWELL: I had come from a business background in Wayne County. When we lived in Palmyra, I had been chair of the economic development committee there, and so I had had some experience working with groups of merchants to coordinate efforts. Even though we’re young to Geneva, the process wasn’t entirely new to me.
Geneva, having come from smaller towns, Geneva just seemed liked a treasure trove of really talented merchants, really great shops. Putting together the holiday open house, while it was daunting, we had so much talent to work with there that it was inspiring. I was inspired, let’s say.
FLT: Can the effects of an event like this carry through year-round?
HASWELL: We hope so, because if we get folks into these shops once to educate them about what’s available downtown, those people will continue to think about downtown merchants first and foremost throughout the year.
FLT: How do you think downtown Geneva is doing?
HASWELL: I’m really excited about downtown Geneva. I’m so happy that we moved here, that we decided to open a business here. I think the future is very, very bright for Geneva.
HASWELL: I see so much young talent moving to the city. So many great ideas being put forward. On a personal note, James and I will be at home and be overwhelmed by the amount of things we could go out and do on a Friday night.
FLT: What initially drew you here?
HASWELL: ... James had taken a job in Syracuse, and we needed to find someplace somewhere in between. James actually went on an exploratory mission to Geneva. ... The sun happened to be out, the lake happened to be smelling good. ... He pretty much said, we’re moving to Geneva. I was more resistant, but he turned out to be right. No regrets. James, in fact, he has ‘Geneva’ tattooed on his arm, so we can’t move. ...