By Joshua Maloni
Lewiston is a culinary destination today because of events that took place a decade ago.
At that time, locals knew all about the gourmet goodness chefs prepared daily at the Brickyard, Carmelo’s, Casa Antica, The Silo, Tin Pan Alley, Water Street Landing and elsewhere.
Everyone above the hill? Not nearly as much.
The rest of the region – and much of the country – would soon learn of these restaurants through TV appearances (including “Man V. Food” in 2010), nomination in the USA Today/Rand McNally “Best for Food” competition (2012), and the start of the Roaming Table food tours (2014).
Subsequently, the village has become a go-to place for foodies.
Retailers are hoping the same will happen in the shopping district.
The Lewiston Business Group is hosting its third winter event, “Shop Hop,” from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 6. The Easter-themed activity follows the successful “Sip. Shop. Eat!” and “Holiday Kick-Off – Lewiston Style” discount shopping days.
John Lang, owner of John Lang Designs Metal Sculpture, said these events “pull in people from Buffalo, Ohio, Canada, I’ve had Rochester, south of Buffalo.”
For these special retail showcases, Center Street businesses unite to present a theme, discounts and prize giveaways.
“It’s a huge difference,” Lang said. “When you have an event, it just pulls in from all over. And I get a lot of comments that Lewiston’s offering different things than what they get elsewhere – and that’s why they come here.”
“They either haven’t been here before and they thought, ‘Hey, I’m going to do something different.’ Or they know of Lewiston, and they know that, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty cool up here. Let’s go to the event,’ ” he added. “Sales are really good from those events, as well, and we get follow-up, too, because the people are so impressed – the customers are so impressed when they visit the area. They talk about it. And those people that they talk to come back, and then the guests usually come back – the customers will come back, as well. …
“It just helps put Lewiston on the map, especially during a time of year when it slows down.”
Event organizer Kristen Brolinski, owner of Spice Harbor, said, “What we’re planning on doing now is we’re welcoming Easter and spring. We are praying that the weather will cooperate – and Mother Nature – and give us some cooperation.”
“Shop Hop” is an opportunity for families to get out and make a day of it. Parents can visit the 30 participating retailers and enter to win one of three $150 gift certificate-filled baskets. When they make a purchase, they will receive a special egg, filled with a discount coupon, special deal or a gift.
Children can take pictures with a large, costumed Easter Bunny, from 1-3 p.m. inside the International Peace Garden. His appearance is courtesy of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce.
Just like with Santa during the Christmas Walk, participants can take their own photos.
Visitors can then enter a second contest, this one to name the bunny, and, in so doing, register to win additional goodies.
Brolinski said “Shop Hop” will include more retailers than past events.
“We are not just doing Center Street, but Portage Road this time,” she said. “We go all the way back to DeGiulio’s Pharmacy,” and will include the CVS Plaza’s locally owned stores.
“Eventually, it will probably expand a little bit more,” Brolinski said.
She explained retailers are beginning to see a more diverse group of shoppers.
“They don’t want to particularly do (‘big-box’). I’m seeing it; I’m hearing it. It’s a nice change to hear that they really care about the ‘mom and pop.’ Mostly why is they feel like they’re getting better customer service – more direct, familial relationships. And they’re making bonds with these people.”
As part of “Shop Hop,” Cheri Amour will have in-store specials on Kendra Scott items (like what’s shown). John Lang will offer discounts and a second prize drawing. Spice Harbor will have patron-pleasing dips and Cool Whip pies.
Inspirations on Canvas owner Kathy Pignatora coordinated the past two Lewiston Retail Group events alongside You & Me Boutique owner Laura Mann Falsetti and Donna Garfinkel of Sgt. Peppers Hot Sauces, Etc. She said she’s noticed an “amazing” change in the local business climate.
“Definitely there was something missing. Everybody expects (Lewiston) just to close and everything just be quiet and just status quo. And that’s just something I believe we can overcome,” she said. “I feel like we’re on the up and up in Lewiston, as a retailer. I’m excited about the project that’s going to be across the street at the Frontier House. There’s just a few pieces that have always been kind of missing here, just from a retail point of view, for winter business, in particular. In the summer, no problems. It’s all good. How do we make it year-round, I guess has been my thought.”
She added, “I think what was really, overall, the biggest thing missing was the businesses working together; the pooling of resources. And I believe there’s power in numbers. … There’s such a cooperation going on. Camaraderie. There’s no competition involved in it. It’s just a really solid (group); really it’s a fun group of people that we’re just building something.”
Like Lang, Pignatora said she’s had customers from around the world.
“One of the draws for me of why I love this shop and this business and this village is people,” she said. “The people we get to meet that are locals, too. My gosh, I have pieces of art in South Africa and Australia. We’re fortunate to meet people from all over the world.”
Pignatora said another event will take place in May, then the retailers group will step aside during the summer, when the Chamber of Commerce stages Lewiston’s largest events. Business-coordinated activities will commence in the winter.
The retailers and the chamber have partnered on recent promotions to present more events and outdoors options for locals and visitors.
“It has to be a hand-in-hand thing. We still need – especially in the winter months – we still depend on the locals to come by and see us,” Pignatora said.
Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Pauly said, “The chamber works on promotions and marketing year-round to bring people in to this region. However, due the weather and Lewiston being primarily a tourist destination, the offseason months can be tough. We are supportive of our Lewiston businesses coming up with fun events during the offseason, and look forward to showcasing our new Easter Bunny costume.”
Cheri Clark, co-owner of Cheri Amour, said, “Events are the way to go. You’ve got to get people out and not shop online. They need to be out in Lewiston, and this is a great thing to do.”
ABOUT THOSE EGGS …
Though the “Shop Hop” is Easter-themed, eggs found in stores are not meant to be collected like in a scavenger hunt. Rather:
•Glittery eggs will signify where customers can enter to win one of three $150 gift baskets. No purchase is required.
On the back of each entry form, patrons also can select a name for the Easter Bunny. The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce will choose a winner. The person picking the new name will receive a photo engraving valued at $45 from the Village Goldsmith Robert Young, as well as a $25 Chamber of Commerce gift certificate.
•A basket of colorful plastic eggs will be placed next to cash registers. Customers will receive one with a purchase. Inside the eggs are prizes, discounts or special in-store offers.