As live Christmas music played and gifts were being wrapped inside the relaxed atmosphere of Barrington Books on Friday afternoon, just outside of its doors was a buzzing Garden City Center as the holiday shopping season got underway.
Garden City is no stranger to the craziness that is Black Friday, with an array of big-name stores that give shoppers money-saving deals on the post-Thanksgiving “holiday,” such as the Gap’s all-day sale of 50 percent off all merchandise.
Barrington Books, meanwhile, won’t be relying on discounts this holiday season, but rather on the three things that have served them well for the past two Decembers they’ve been in Garden City: customer service, complimentary gift-wrapping, and live holiday music every day until Christmas.
“We try to compete all year round with our independent touch,” said co-owner Jennifer Massotti. “We have that small business appeal.”
Massotti, along with co-owner Steve Schechtman, have tried to create a unique holiday atmosphere to bring shoppers into their store, which is paired with their other one in Barrington. She said that the gratification of going into the store, looking at all the merchandise they have to offer, and truly feeling the holiday season, are why they believe they’re positioned for a successful holiday season.
“We have a loyal customer base that prefers to support local independent businesses,” Massotti said about competing with Amazon.com and online shopping. “We have felt an overwhelming support from both our communities because they want their local independent bookstore to thrive.”
Massotti also said that they’ve been able to compete by allowing customers to place orders on their website and come to pick them up in store.
During the holiday season, the entire store is Christmas and Hanukkah themed, and the live music and complimentary gift-wrapping station add to that ambiance.
Despite the independent qualities that Barrington Books makes sure to have so they can have a profitable holiday season, the impact of being located in the bustling Garden City Center isn’t lost on them.
“Each month we see growth around us, Garden City is just evolving and becoming more of a premier destination than it has been,” Massotti said. “We’re excited to be a part of it.”
Joe Koechel, General Manager of Garden City, sees the post-Thanksgiving weekend as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season at the shopping center located in the middle of Cranston.
“It gives you a good indication of how sales will go during the holiday season,” he said. “This is where stores really start ramping up their discounts to attract people so this is a very important day.”
Koechel referenced a “sharper and more targeted” way of appealing to customers when speaking about how the stores in Garden City bring in so many customers during this time of year, such as giving customers incentives to buy in-store, like L.L. Bean’s deal of a $10 gift card on a $50 purchase.
In regards to online competition, Koechel said that Garden City has created an atmosphere that is unmatched.
“The unique thing here is that you can’t duplicate the experience online,” he said. “You can’t duplicate the tradition of Garden City Center, the touch and the feel of it. People know each other, Santa will be here…People make a day of it.”
On Black Friday, the center opened at 7:00 a.m., unlike the midnight openings of stores like Wal-Mart and Target, in order to maintain that feel.
In regards to the locality of Garden City, Koechel said that they have so many small stores, such as Providence Diamond and Sweenor’s, because people love to shop locally. Some stores have been there for more than 20 years, he said, making them familiar to Cranston residents.
“They’re able to compete because of their uniqueness,” he said. “Who doesn’t buy chocolate from Sweenor’s for the holidays?”
During the shopping season, Garden City will have additional security present as well as enough parking spaces to accommodate for the influx of customers. Having good weather helps business out also, Koechel said, especially because of the ability to walk through the center to each of the stores and restaurants.
Garden City is only getting bigger, with the most recent development where the bush sign used to be. Smaller, non-chain stores, like Barrington Books, will continue to have to compete with bigger stores, but they’ll also be benefiting from a jam-packed Garden City Center, especially during the holiday season.