Handmade, niche items to bolster local businesses during holiday season

Maryam Hoult, operator of Handworks Gallery on the the Loudoun Street walking mall in Old Town Winchester, said that big sellers for her during the holidays tend to be jewelry and pieces by local artists. Nathan Budryk/Daily

WINCHESTER — Old Town businesses are gearing up for what they are hoping will be a successful holiday shopping season. Like many other small businesses in the region, Winchester’s small businesses rely on quality, customer service and unique products to earn their share of  holiday gifts sales.

Maryam Hoult, who operates Handworks Gallery on Old Town’s walking mall, said she relies on craftsmanship to lure customers away from the big ads and small prices offered by big box stores and online retailers.

“We’re kind of inherently not in competition with big box stores,” Hoult said. “That’s my main plan, is to set ourselves apart for something that’s completely different from what those stores offer. … We just love art crafts and handmade things. … It’s about offering something different.”

She said that as handmade, artisanal items become more trendy, some big box stores that typically wouldn’t sell things of that nature have started trying to tap into the market. As that happens, Hoult said the quality of service offered at her store will set it apart.

“There are some big box stores that are trying to get in on it,” she said. “But we also offer a lot more service and just an interesting experience. I think people feel good coming in here. They enjoy themselves. It’s fun.”

In addition to providing customers with positive, memorable experiences, Hoult said there are tangible aspects of her operation with which other businesses can’t compete.

“We have great packaging,” she said. “We box and gift wrap any item with a dried flower bouquet. No one does that. We’re the only ones that do that and you can buy a pile of stuff and we’ll do that with everything. That’s something that people really love. It sets us apart.”

Hoult’s shop will also be participating in Plaid Friday, Old Town’s version of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving with a variety of deals and events, starting at 6 a.m., scheduled throughout Old Town.

Nathalie Miller is the owner of Eclectic, also on the walking mall. She says she tends to sell a lot of the items that shoppers can’t get elsewhere, notably inventory from Poland.

“I do have product from Poland that I do carry in my store,” She said. “I’m the only one who does in Winchester. I have mugs, I have plates, I have cups and I have a catalog where you can order things from me that I can have shipped to you right away or I can have it in my store. The inventory I have in here is a little of everything, like a mug or a bowl, and for Christmas I have some specific items like Polish ornaments and Christmas trees you can light up.”

Miller said that she offers sales between 10 and 20 percent off throughout the holiday season and that Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturdays help when it comes to getting people in the door.

“This year we’re going to try to get them to spend money by giving them better deals on the things we’re selling – doing sales throughout the season. … Just on whatever is in the store. … I believe in word of mouth. I believe in building that relationship with your customers.”

Like Hoult, Miller said that jewelry is always a big seller during the holidays, as well as gifts.

“People love to buy jewelry,” she said. “You can’t go wrong with jewelry. People like to buy antiques or collectibles that they know somebody in their family will like. Mostly for me its things that people can actually use like tablecloths and pottery.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com