Store counters are filled with champagne and wine and sales tables are cleared to make room for platters of food.
It’s the beginning of the holiday shopping season and store owners are utilizing the familiar concept of an open house to kick off their season. With the libations flowing, customers are more relaxed and perhaps in more of a mood to spend money. It’s a good chance for store owners to bring in new customers and reconnect with established ones. It also gives them a chance to show off what they’ll be selling for the holidays.
Several Old Town merchants held open houses this past weekend. Imagine Artwear kicked off their “I Have Nothing to Wear” Petwear Show with receptions on both Friday evening and Saturday. This is their first annual Petwear Show and featured pet clothing, jewelry and pottery.
Among the featured designers was Doug Payne, an Alexandria artist who designs a collection of sophisticated pottery dog bowls; Rebecca Myers, an Annapolis jewelry designer who makes dog bone necklaces in silver and gold; and clothing designers Peggy Gandy of Oregon, Sally Ryan of Indiana, Beth Nash of Ohio, Deborah Hird-Newell of Montana, and Seattle-based clothing company, Beppa. Madeleine Mitchell, owner of Madeleine’s Kids, also showed some of her newly designed items which she is currently selling at Barkley Square. All of the above lines will be featured at Imagine Artwear through the end of the year.
Carol Supplee is the owner of Imagine, and sees Imagine more as an art gallery than a boutique.
“As such, we have openings to mark special events — a trunk show where the items will only be in the store for a few days, a visiting silk painter demonstrating scarf tying techniques, or the unveiling of the Petwear Invitational," said Supplee. "It's a chance for my collectors to socialize and be the first to see new items. For those who discover us through word of mouth or just passing by, it is a way to make them feel welcome and realize Imagine is a comfortable and fun place to shop.
"Of course, some openings are more successful than others — Hobbes’ 15th birthday party still holds the place of all time favorite events that people still talk about. But they all contribute and add to the overall shopping experience,” she said.
JOE EGERTON HELD OPEN HOUSES at both Arts Afire Glass Gallery and Arts Afire Crafts Gallery on Friday evening. With the two locations less than a block from each other, it was easy for customers to travel between the two. While both locations had wine and champagne, the original glass gallery featured trays of appetizers from Nickells & Scheffler, while Egerton’s newest gallery had plates of Kingsbury Chocolates. Customers also had the opportunity to decide which of the two door prizes they wanted to put their card in for.
Egerton finds open houses to be profitable, and said, “Mainly, it provides an opportunity to give a nice soirée to thank established customers for their support. Our Christmas preview is by invitation only. Customers hear the buzz and ask to be included. The four or five special shows we offer each year provide collectors the opportunity to meet the artists and get first grabs on their newest creations. Some are more profitable than others, but overall we feel it is beneficial in so many ways. Plus, it provides a little class to the retail business.”
Liza Cowan May, who held an Open House at E.C. May, thinks it definitely generates interest and business.
“We reconnect with established customers and clients who tell others about our retail space,” May said. “Hosting one or two open houses between Thanksgiving and Christmas helps people get into the spirit of the season and thinking about gifts they might like to by. We sell a fair amount of hostess and teacher/office gifts and I think we have some unique items. We always try and highlight several local artists for the Open Houses.”
Featured at the open house were hand-blown glass ornaments, vases, bowls and candlesticks, pewter ornaments, serving pieces, baby gifts, assorted fine jewelry, artist prints, photographs, and works on paper and canvas.”
While their main line of business is as a full service, fine art consulting firm specializing in all aspects of arts management, they also run the gallery during the week. The firm promotes contemporary American artists either emerging or with national and international reputations representing all media, including canvases, works on paper, sculpture, photographs, prints, and fine crafts such as glass, ceramics, handmade paper, and fiber.