Good Grief, Charlie Brown! You're a Winner
|Doug and Manna Mason of the Party Place on Eagle Street hold up the gift certificates they won for the best-dressed holiday window. We caught them at supper in the new Desperados.
The Hometown Holidays' best-window contest resulted in not two, but three winners on Thursday night.
Manna Mason of the Party Place on Eagle Street won a night for two at the Porches and dinner at Gramercy Bistro for her Charlie Brown Christmas-themed windows.
The judges (Mayor Richard Alcombright, Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and Mass MoCA director Joseph Thompson) were quite taken with the fetching illustrations on the Party Place that were painted like stained glass. Thompson in particular liked the three-dimensional effect created by the grids inside the windows.
That's about as evocative as the judges were about the more than two dozen businesses and shops that decked their halls — and windows — with cheery and bright displays. Alcombright did step into nearly every open storefront to at least say hello. (Though our boasting over our own lovely windows fell on deaf ears.)
After the judges perused the windows, pointing out particularly interesting pieces, they graded each display based on creativity, effort, holiday festivity, wow factor and overall look. The Party Place was followed closely by I Got Goodies in second and Petrino's Cafe in third.
The runners-up, however, didn't lose out. They were the favorites of the more than 60 shoppers who voted; possibly their proximity to each other played a role, but the wins were well deserved. Both shops have some serious eye candy in the windows, literally in I Got Goodies' case.
Colleen Taylor of Taylor's Restaurant graciously offered a second gift certificate so both Mark Petrino of Petrino's Cafe and Janice Esoldi of I Got Goodies received a prize for People's Choice.
"It was definitely a success," said Jonathan Secor of MCLA's Gallery 51 and the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. "It's a beginning ... It was great to see the lights and all the effort and everything. ... It looks like there's life on the street."
Janice Esoldi of I Got Goodies and Mark Petrino of Petrino's Cafe won People's Choice.
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Quiet carolers are caught midnote in the iBerkshires window.
Anyone who's been downtown lately has noticed the spirit of the season on full display.
Storefronts have been blazing with lights, decorated with trees and Christmas balls, snowflakes and Santas, giant nutcrackers and all kinds of interesting merchandise.
On Thursday night, downtown shoppers will have the chance to decide which is the best.
The decorating idea sprang up during meetings held earlier this fall by downtown merchants to promote the "Buy Local" campaign locally. (Members pointedly reminded those on the "shady side" of the street to dress up, too. And we have, just you see!) To encourage participation, the group decided to create a contest for the best window and offer a prize.
Judges will be perusing the city's best-dressed windows at this week's Hometown for the Holidays event on Thursday night to select the storefront with the best holiday spirit. Since judges' choices rarely please everyone, downtown patrons will decide the People's Choice.
The contest is part of the Hometown Holidays events that kicked off with the tree lighting on Thanksgiving Eve and has continued on the traditional Thursday shopping nights. Merchants and restaurants have been offering specials and discounts; the Mystery Shopper has also returned after decades of absence to lure shoppers downtown with the promise of gift certificates.
This Thursday, celebrity judges Mayor Richard Alcombright, Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Executive Director Joseph C. Thompson will be peeking in windows of participating businesses around Main, Holden and Eagle streets beginning at 5.
The judges will announce their choice at 6 p.m. at Petrino's Cafe. The winner gets a night at the Porches and dinner at Gramercy Bistro.
Then the public gets to weigh in. Local stores and volunteers with the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center will have contest forms available beginning at 5; get them back to Petrino's by 6:45 for the People's Choice winner to be announced at 7. The winner gets dinner for two at Taylor's.
While you're downtown, don't just look at the windows, step into the shops and check out the merchandise. Most stores will be open until 9 so there's plenty of time after the contest to circle back to that must-have item.
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Holiday Stop a Beneficial Presence
An elegant place setting from Carr Hardware, kitchenware and crocheted baby sweaters are among the items to be found at The Holiday Stop.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Jennifer Barbeau, who turned the anemic Fall Foliage Craft Fair into a rousing downtown success this year, isn't done with Main Street.
Barbeau, an independent consultant with Tastefully Simple, a home-party prepared foods business; her daughter, Kate Barbeau, Diane Daniels and crafter Kathy Turner have teamed up to open The Holiday Stop at 81 Main St. to offer a variety of crafts and merchandise and support nonprofits over the holidays.
Merchandise includes range of handcrafted local items, overstock and bargains: from purses, shawls, linens and jewelery to homebaked goods, crocheted baby sweaters, natural lotions and handmade Christmas decorations. There's also, of course, information about their home businesses; Kate Barbeau sells Miche Bags and Daniels is consultant for Linen World.
"It's a nice opportunity for us to help the community," said Barbeau, since a lot of the sales go to local charities. "We got a lot of donations."
They're selling calendars for the Greylock Animal Hospital, for instance, to raise funds for its Stray and Wildlife Medical Fund. St. John's Episcopal Church's thrift store Gilded Cage has taken over a spot to continue selling its goods through the holiday. Sales of clothing go to Shriners' Hospital; a gift wrapping station benefits Relay for Life. The shop is also accepting food pantry and animal shelter donations.
"We wanted to make this fun, too," said Barbeau, "by bringing people in to talk and do demonstrations."
That means craft and story times for kids, information about what the animal hospital's been helping with its fund and raffles. One of the more popular demonstrations is "elegant napkin folding," said Barbeau, along with bow making. Advance registration is recommended for all activities. The cost: a donation to the food pantry.
The store is open Saturdays 9 to 5; Sundays 9 to 3; sometimes at lunchtime, and for the Thursday night Hometown Holidays events. This Thursday, Dec. 2, there'll be a bow making class at 6:30. Saturday offers a children's program at 10:30 and a Greylock rep will be on hand from 11 to 1.
The last day is Thursday, Dec. 23.
Update: The shop is a now a FIVE-person venture with the addition of Mary Ann Caproni the "Crochet Queen." Caproni has (adorable!) hats, doll clothes, children's sweaters, purses and more.
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Main Street Brings Back Mystery Shopper
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Shoppers in the downtown should be on the lookout for a mystery man or woman this Thursday browsing local stores. If you guess right, you'll win a $25 gift certificate.
The "Mystery Shopper" contest was resurrected as part of Hometown Holidays, an initiative of the city, Develop North Adams and downtown merchants to encourage people to shop locally. A kids' trivia contest is also being run through Dec. 24.
The Mystery Shopper was a popular North Adams holiday event decades ago. Does anyone remember it?
Downtown patrons will have the chance to track down a mystery shopper on the next four Thursday evenings before Christmas. Two Mystery Shoppers will be browsing stores, restaurants and galleries along Main, Eagle, Ashland, Holden and Marshall streets. Look for clues as to who and where the mystery shoppers will be on each Thursday in the text ads on iBerkshires; there'll also be clues in the local paper.
To make shopping easier, the city has revived the old tradition of free short-term parking along the streets (but not the long-term parking in the municipal lots). The limit is two hours and includes Main, Eagle, Ashland and Marshall streets and American Legion Drive through the end of Christmas weekend, Sunday, Dec. 26.
If you spot a Mystery Shopper all you need to do is ask them "Are you the Mystery Shopper?" based on the clue given for that evening. If you are the first to ask them you win a $25 gift certificate to a favorite downtown business.
One Mystery Shopper will be out between 6 and 7 p.m. and the other from 7 to 8. You have to figure out which one at which time. One prize will be awarded for each identified Mystery Shopper.
We'll give you clues for this Thursday, Dec. 2; look for the next set in the text ads circulating through iBerkshires.
Clue for Shopper 1: My purfect pet feels the beat of my heart.
Clue for Shopper 2: Plowing tops my mind when I go shopping.
For more information, contact Keith Bona, DNA Merchant Committee, at 413-664-6388 or at www.ShopNorthAdamsMA.com.
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