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The businesses along Ridley Park's East Hinckley Avenue were bedecked in holiday attire, and signs beckoned with calls to “Shop Small” as Saturday was set apart in the holiday shopping season for folks to check out the stores in their hometowns and pour some spending into the local economies.
All across the county from Long Lane in Upper Darby to the Avenue of the Arts in Chester and from Church Lane in Yeadon to State Street in Media, small business owners welcomed shoppers, offering festivities and discounts, as well as a way to positively impact their community. This story is filed by Kathleen Carey for the DelCoTimes.
“It’s the day you’re supposed to go to small stores,” Rachael Beck said, perusing the cranberry chutney and Home Sweet Home candles inside Langguth’s Gift Shop, 15 E. Hinkley Ave. “That’s why I’m here. It’s what keeps America going.”
The store featured sales and live acoustic music from Kate Kidd and Charlie Bell in a tradition hearkening back decades as Larry Langguth opened the store in the same year his daughter, Sallie Saunders, was born 52 years ago.
Langguth recalled past holiday seasons when people lined up to get into his shop and the effort he put into converting the former Deakyne grocery store and barn into an expansion for his store. The competition has gotten fiercer, too, particularly he said with the larger retail venues. “Now, we buy six of these,” he said pointing to holiday decorations. “They buy dozens and they can charge half the price. If I make extra, it goes to my family and my help.”
Some of his customers and staff, like managers Mary Ellen Hart and Kathy Weber, were nothing short of dedicated to the family business. “This is the best store,” Joyce Campbell said, walking with a cane in one hand and a shopping basket in the other. Wearing a pink “Tis the Season” sweatshirt showing Santa coming down a chimney, she smiled, “I love this store. The town is great to live in.”
Jennifer Vattima, who’s worked at the store for more than two decades, showed off the store’s $20 hand-painted Ridley Park glass ornaments made by artists in Uzbekistan. During the week, she works as a dental assistant and she spends her weekends at Langguth’s. “I can’t leave,” she said. “The reason why — it’s in my blood.”
Sandwiched between Langguth’s and the Langguth Alley Christmas display was the hand-crafted country decor Primitive Place, owned by Stephanie Oreo, “Stephanie started making pine cone (crafts) as a girl,” her mom and store assistant, Lauren Wilson, said. “Then, people would ask her to do wreaths, then she went to fairs. So, she’s really living the American dream.” Oreo said she tries to support as many entrepreneurs as possible, including candle maker Debbye Oristaglio of Parkside.
“In this economy, I think a lot of people are trying to tap into their own creativity to support themselves,” Oreo noted, although she said she’s found her customers are giving whether its in support of her or others. She spoke of one of her patrons who came to the store on Black Friday to purchase decorations for the home of a less fortunate family she adopted for the holiday. “You get a sense of what people are really about,” Oreo said, “and the good that it’s all about.”