By Lauren Zaepfel
As shop owners across the nation prepare for the upcoming Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28, merchants of the Tonawandas are working away on another holiday tradition.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, a variety of businesses, agencies and organizations will join forces as sponsors and participants in the annual Gateway Cities Winter Walk, to offer family-friendly events and some of the biggest shopping specials of the year.
In North Tonawanda, a popular place to shop Winter Walk is on Webster Street, while additional shopping opportunities will be offered along Main Street in Tonawanda.
"There has been such a great renaissance down here (Webster Street) within the past five years and a lot of people still don't know that it's full of shops and it's full of life. There are places to eat, places to shop, places to have things done, and it (Winter Walk) is a way for us to give back. It's also a way for us to have, like, a big street-wide open house and say, 'Hey! Come check us out!' " said Heather Kalisiak, chairwoman for Winter Walk and owner of Martinsville Soapworks on Webster Street.
Heather Kalisiak presents holiday-shaped soaps among several other homemade bath and body products.
"Basically it's a family-oriented affair. It gives families a chance to be together, to enjoy the area, to do some holiday shopping, enjoy some of the specials. We have a lot of nice restaurants, the Riviera (Theatre) is putting on a holiday show that day, so it's basically oriented more toward the family, to bring people down to get them used to the area and to do some of your holiday shopping," Suzanne Todaro said. She is secretary for Winter Walk 2015 and owner of Gleam & Glimmer Stained Glass Studio, also on Webster Street.
Family-friendly activities will be held throughout the morning and afternoon at the YWCA, 49 Tremont St., North Tonawanda.
"We have the petting zoo, vintage fire truck rides, they (children and family) can go visit Santa earlier in the day, and then later in the day, they can visit Anna and Elsa," Kalisiak said.
"There will be a professional photographer over there taking pictures - very awesome," Todaro said. "They (The YWCA) just merged with Niagara Falls, so it's a whole big thing. They're going to be doing gingerbread men, full-size gingerbread men, so the kids lay down on a piece of brown paper, trace their body out and they color them in. It's so stinkin' cute. And that's with help from the Carnegie (Art Center)."
In addition, "Reagan the police dog is going to do two shows over there, two demonstrations, right in front of the YWCA. ... Sweeney Hose is going to bring their fire truck down and they're going to give rides up and down Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, so that will be kind of fun," Todaro said.
She said a shuttle bus will also be running, "dropping people off and picking people up at stops all around Tonawanda and North Tonawanda - The Carousel (Museum), the Carnegie, the history museum, downtown North Tonawanda, as well."
In Tonawanda, pony rides, craft fairs and live entertainment will also be available.
"Winter Walk is really a way for us to give back. (It is) for the merchants and the businesses in North Tonawanda, for agencies, to give back a little bit to the community, which is why we sponsor all of these free events especially for kids," Kalisiak said.
Suzanne Todaro, owner of Gleam and Glimmer Stained Glass Studio, holds a handmade stained glass snowflake, as well as her pet dog, Desi.
Winter Walk Chair offers handmade bath and body
Martinsville Soapworks, 88 Webster St., North Tonawanda: Kalisiak will introduce all of her winter fragrances during an open house, where her "handmade bath and body," products will be offered.
"We have all handmade cold processed soaps, which is a traditional method of soap making," she said.
Other bath and body products offered include bubble baths, shower jells, soy candles, lotions, fragrances and more.
Kalisiak explained she makes her products herself and she is entirely self-taught.
"All the candles, all the soaps, all the lip balms, everything's made here in the store," she said. "I started making soap in 2002. I come from a family of people that made things from their hands. ... If we needed something, we built it."
Besides her slew of homemade bath and body products, Kalisiak offers home décor, fashion accessories (for both people and pets) and more, all crafted by local artisans.
"Most (of the artisans) are based in North Tonawanda," Kalisiak said.
With a passion for the area and what local merchants can offer the community, the Winter Walk chair hopes people will come see all that is newly offered. "Webster Street has really revitalized in the past five to 10 years. ... A lot of the businesses here are new and people just don't realize that we're down here," she said.
Sparkling décor offered
Gleam & Glimmer Stained Glass Studio, 34 Webster St., North Tonawanda: Gleam and Glimmer offers stained glass artwork, décor classes and workshops.
"We make about 99.5 percent of all the things that are in here," Todaro said. "I do, once and a while, bring in a little bit of this and that," such as jewelry and other décor.
Todaro is set to conduct her annual candy cane sale, where visitors can pick out a candy cane from a large bucket to reveal a discount of 10 to 50 percent.
A gift certificate special will also be available to shoppers. With the purchase of $100 worth of gift certificates, $25 in additional gift certificates is free.
"We do classes year-round, so a lot of people buy those for the holidays, because they don't know what to get mom or the wife or whatever," Todaro said.
Outside the shop, Mark Swogier (Musical Mark) will perform live music from noon to 4 p.m.
Vintage inspired fashion, accessories and décor
Hip Gypsy, 78 Webster St., North Tonawanda: Shoppers will be able to find "a little bit of everything," at Hip Gypsy, said owner Holly Rankie. "I think I offer something for everyone. No matter what you're budget or what your style - it's here."
Shoppers can find all sorts of products, including clothing, jewelry, home and seasonal décor, stationary, cards, incense, candles, fragrances, teas, coffees, chocolates, fabric by the yard and much more.
During Winter Walk, shoppers can stop by for a coupon (without an expiration date) and refreshments and cookies.
"It's my biggest day of the year. It always is - even more than Canal Fest or anything," Rankie said. "It's a family day, too, and it's wholesome and it's old fashion."
New clothes and "wintery" themed items will be coming to the store for Winter Walk.
River Art Gallery to hold reopening during Winter Walk
River Art Gallery, 83 Webster St., North Tonawanda: The River Art Gallery will hold its grand reopening on Winter Walk.
"Those who are visiting the community for the first time will enjoy a creative and positive experience throughout our historical North Tonawanda city and enjoy our upscale and friendly shop," River Art Gallery owner Lisa Langer said.
"Our membership and resident artists have brought their one-of-a-kind works for the public to purchase for the holiday season, in line with our mission to expose the public to great art and bring that experience into their everyday lives at home," Langer said. "It also is in alignment with our goal to support our local artists to economically thrive and for their continued contribution to our culture. I say it is a win-win all around!"
"It's a chance for people to come out and view original artwork, local artwork, and to purchase if they would like and to meet the artists," artist Susan M. Miller said.
"Sometimes it's just nice to see the faces that belong to the art," said Dawn M. DiGesare, a metal clay artist.
Visitors will be able to observe DiGesare's clay jewelry class during Winter Walk.
Live music, hors d'oeuvres and refreshments will also be available.
From left: Local artists Dawn M. DiGesare, Susan M. Miller and Deanna Weinholtz stand by their artwork at the River Gallery, where they all volunteer and sell pieces.