Christmas arrives – early

Published 1:23 am Friday, July 8, 2011

Richard Snow (left) and Gary Ceres, owners of I Can’t Believe It’s a Book Store, finish serving a customer Thursday afternoon while talking about upcoming Christmas in July festivities in downtown Washington. (WDN Photo/Sara Cowell)

Can’t wait until Dec. 25 to get your Christmas fix? Now you don’t have to.

Eight, 10 or more downtown-Washington businesses are partnering with the nonprofit Washington Harbor District Alliance to promote the city’s first-ever Christmas in July.

The event runs from July 18 through July 24 in the downtown business community.

Some stores will offer sales on Christmas or everyday items during the weeklong happening, and some live entertainment has been scheduled to coincide with the goings-on.

At least a few merchants will decorate their stores with yuletide pieces, among them wreaths and Christmas trees, and it’s rumored Santa Claus might make an appearance — albeit in seasonally appropriate shorts.

The Christmas in July concept sprang from the mind of Gary Ceres, who co-owns Main Street’s I Can’t Believe It’s a Book Store with Richard Snow.

“I’ve seen it in other towns, and it works really well,” Ceres explained, adding the idea is intended to attract shoppers downtown during one of the slowest months of the year.

One of the participating businesses is Inner Banks Artisans’ Center on Main Street.

“I think the big value is the Greenville market,” said Bob Henkel, co-owner of the art gallery. “That’s where I think we’re getting a lot of our customers, especially my customers, from.”

The Washington Harbor District Alliance is supplying funds to advertise the summertime soiree in Greenville and Washington, according to Ceres.

WHDA pushes downtown Washington as a destination for locals, day-trippers and other visitors.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Beth Byrd, executive director of the alliance. “They (Snow and Ceres) came to us because July is notoriously a slow month, and they thought they wanted to do something like this to spike the sales a little bit.”

Rebecca Clark is co-vice president of the WHDA’s organizational committee, which does a lot of fundraising activities for the alliance.

“Christmas in July has become really popular in a lot of different places around the United States,” Clark commented. “It’s just an opportunity to bring a lot of people downtown to Washington.”

Merchants involved in the affair include most of the 14 vendors at the Little Shoppes of Washington and eight to 10 other businesses, she shared.

“Even though this is supported by WHDA, this is actually an initiative that a couple of the merchants got together on,” Clark explained. “We really want downtown to succeed, and we’re actively pursuing anything that we can to get a reason, to get somebody to come downtown because we feel like it has a lot to offer.”