AMESBURY — The Amesbury Chamber of Commerce is clearing away the winter blahs with a city-wide “Paint the Town Red with Romance” promotion.
“This is something which lets all types of businesses participate and find their own ways to draw up business during a time of year that is often slow,” chamber executive director Kassandra Gove said. “This really gives them the opportunity to be creative and gives Amesbury something to collectively promote as a community.“
The month-long program encourages businesses to participate in their own way, with Trendsetter’s Boutique offering all December stock at half price, Board & Brush will have couples workshops, Bernadette‘s Day Spa will be giving 45-minute “Kiss of Bliss” facials and Willie Jo & Woodie’s is staying open until 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, among other promotions.
“It has been really fun to see what everyone is doing,” Gove said. “From specials to spa treatments to raffles and sweetheart tables, everything is waiting for you in Amesbury.”
Many of the city’s restaurants such as Crave feature fireplaces and are expected to make good use of them come Valentine’s Day.
“This is a great opportunity to bring your valentine or your sweetheart into town for some fun at a time of the year when it is still cold and dark,” Gove said, “You can share some love and have some fun together. That should heat things up a little bit.”
According to Gove, the downtown merchants saw a big bump in retail sales when the Amesbury Chamber hosted its first annual Winterfest Weekend in mid-December, which saw ice-skating and ice sculptures in Market Square.
“I spoke with some business owners who said that they were doing really well,” Gove said. “We knew the Winterfest would drum up a lot of business and it was a good way to get out-of-towners into Amesbury and a great way to capitalize on locals who are often busy and working long hours and commuting during the weekdays. That’s why we did Winterfest and I know those two days were very good days for them.”
The co-owner of Willie Jo & Woodie’s, Donna Woodsom, opened her downtown pop-up clothing shop in October and said sales in November and December were good enough to prompt she and her partner Billie McLane to sign a one-year lease.
“October and November were great and December was a little bit better,” Woodsom said. “There was a lot of stuff going on and a lot of people were around. If it had been lousy, we wouldn’t still be here.”
While businesses in neighboring Newburyport can count on a robust tourist trade for most of the year, Gove said Amesbury shops often focus on city residents.
“We are not catering that much to tourists right now,” she said.
Gove added the Small Business Saturday promotion run during the Thanksgiving weekend was also a boost to the local economy.
Many of the city’s businesses such as Supercuts in the Carriagetown Marketplace have been joining in the “Paint the Town Red with Romance “ promotion by decorating their windows for the month and the Chamber is also making a conscious effort to connect with families.
“We are always looking to get something for kids to do and have a nice night out for parents, and we are currently organizing a scavenger hunt of the window displays,” Gove said.
“February is a time of year when almost all brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop shops in small towns see less in sales than they do it any other time of the year. Our businesses seem to be weathering it OK. We have kept our programming lively through the season because we have so much going on. We are still seeing a lot of people out and it certainly look like that little stretch of warm weather we had this week helped. So there is still a lot of energy here.”
The chamber is also in the midst of its annual “Spread the Love” peanut butter drive which has local businesses collecting jars of peanut butter to be donated to Our Neighbors’ Table at the end of the month.
“Our Neighbors’ Table goes through about 200 jars of peanut butter a week,” Gove said. “That is one of their most needed items at their food pantry and we are trying to replenish their one-month stock with this one-month peanut butter drive. The last couple of years we got about 700 jars. This year we are trying to get to 800.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.