Happy New Year — will it be? The holiday season was good for some and not for other businesses last year, and downtown was no exception.
Restaurants in general seemed to do well, and with more than 50 places to get food and/or eat in the area that is no surprise.
Retailers focused on excellent customer service, rewarding loyal customers and expanding shopping hours. Still, the major retail chains with power to offer deep volume discounts drew much of the budget-conscious buyers away from downtown.
Twenty-three creative merchants who decorated their shops and windows for the “Magical Lights of Christmas Window Display Contest” coordinated by the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association got, and hopefully benefitted from, some added exposure. The two-week contest kicked off on December’s First Friday “Red & White Night” event as a flash mob of carolers merrily serenaded shoppers around town. The carolers ended up at Kalakaua Park with the lighting of a Norfolk pine installed and decorated by volunteers, fondly dubbed the “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.”
Ballots at participating contest entry locations allowed the public to vote for their favorite window displays and a secret panel of judges selected winners with first-, second- and third-place prizes awarded in two categories.
The People’s Choice Award winners and their prizes were:
l Third place: KapohoKine Adventures, $20 gift certificate to 100% Moxie Nightclub & Café,
l Second place: High Fire Hawaii Gallery & Studio, bottle of French wine from Downtown Dogs,
l First place: 100% Moxie Nightclub & Café, zip line adventure for two from KapohoKine Adventures.
The judges’ criteria looked at each entry’s best use of space and on the use of at least one used, vintage or recycled item, the colors red, white, and green, a potted tree or plant, Christmas lights, something specific to downtown Hilo, and one thing found in nature.
While all entries were encouraged to follow the criteria for judges, and many did a fantastic job, of all the entries the following winners were standouts in the judges’ eyes:
l Third place: Moonstruck Patisserie on Furneaux Lane, $25 gift certificate to Café Pesto and a downtown Hilo T-shirt,
l Second place: Downtown Dogs on Keawe Street, featured spot on the DIA website (www.downtownhilo.com) for the month of February and a T-shirt,
l First place: Island Edges Beads on Keawe Street, one-year membership in DIA, featured spot on the DIA website for February-May and a T-shirt.
Prizes to the winners came from fellow downtown businesses’ contributions and the DIA, keeping it all in the family. This helped to raise the awareness of merchants in the area about who their neighbors are and in the end will bring even more people here through referrals.
In addition to supporting their favorite business, the public ballots entered everyone who voted into a contest for prizes donated by the 23 participating businesses, which also gave folks another reason to come downtown and shop local over the holidays. There were many happy voters receiving bonus gifts this Christmas, and hopefully that will translate into loyal customers returning.
What happens after the holiday shopping season to keep people interested and coming downtown?
First Fridays are starting to gain some momentum in downtown with more shops and galleries opening late and doing special activities. The East Hawaii Cultural Center almost always has an art opening that night, and Palace Theater’s café and lobby open at 6:30 p.m. with healthy food and quick-stop snacks.
Stay in touch via the DIA website for a list that’s being developed and check the next First Friday out on Feb. 1. Find DIA executive director Alice Moon that night, take a picture and post it on the DIA Facebook page and you could win a prize.
Everyone can look forward to voting on the next window display contest during the huge 50th anniversary celebrations of the Merrie Monarch Festival this year. It’s an easy way to show your support of our downtown businesses — just walk around and view/vote on the great displays. It’s a free way to “Think Local,” and then whenever you can “Buy Local.”
In addition to the display contest and the Saturday parade, there will be lots of free hula and Hawaiian cultural activities happening that week in downtown.
Finally, the beautification and infrastructure improvement projects coordinated by DIA, EnVision Downtown Hilo 2025, our county and many others are all starting to put the shine on our town. When a place looks good, offers good value, a safe environment and convenience then people want to go there, and that’s what downtown can and will be with the help of the community so please join us in our efforts.
Please come to the events, vote on the windows, shop and eat out here as often as possible, participate in and/or set up volunteer cleanup efforts, and if you are able, make a financial contribution or join the DIA as a member — we can do it better with your help.
Around Downtown is written by Alice Moon, executive director of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association. Call Moon at 935-8850 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to share news about issues, events and activities.