ENCINITAS — Shelly Bowles raced to buy her son, Shawn, an outfit at her favorite shop in downtown Encinitas after work only to find that the doors were locked and the lights were out. Most small businesses are working hard to serve customers but staying open after traditional working hours is a stretch for some. “It’s frustrating that I can’t buy something after 6 p.m. at most of the cooler places,” she said.
However, the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association, or DEMA, just made supporting local retailers more convenient with the implementation of L8 Nite Thursdays.
Each Thursday throughout the holiday shopping season, more than 40 retail outlets will stay open until at least 8 p.m. “Almost everyone downtown will be open late,” according to Rick Moore, DEMA’s business liaison.
The coordinated effort makes sense for the individual merchants. Juli Risner from Grounded is looking forward to expanding her shop’s hours at least once a week. “It’s difficult for sole-proprietors to do this on their own but we know it’s hard for customers to always get downtown before closing hours,” she said. “People want to shop locally, but it’s not always convenient.”
“By coordinating all of our hours it’s more inviting for the customer. It’s not just one shop staying open late,” Risner said.
“This demonstrates the value that DEMA provides,” Moore said. “When you get a critical mass of merchants to stay open late, it can only be effectively done as a community or as an organization.”
Beginning Dec. 2 and continuing each Thursday until Dec. 23, the atmosphere downtown will be transformed into a holiday wonderland. Santa Claus will make an appearance at the Lumberyard from 5 to 7 p.m. Local acoustic musicians will be strumming holiday tunes and other entertainment will set the mood for a vibrant downtown experience. Don’t be surprised if you see carolers strolling by, according to Moore.
Rolling out the L8 Nite Thursdays during December “allows merchants to take advantage of the holiday shopping season,” Moore said. “What’s making it really exciting is that most of the merchants will be offering something special.”
In fact, several retailers are offering discounts on unique gifts and refreshments to keep the shoppers’ spirits warm. Hot apple cider and other holiday favorites will be served in abundance. Detour Salon is even offering a 20 percent discount to customers wearing a Santa hat.
The enthusiasm for a coordinated effort to bring more customers to shop downtown is apparent. Cindy Blumkin of Art N Soul said she is thrilled to have so many merchants on board with the effort. “My vision of downtown is that it’s like a village,” she said. “When there is interaction in the evening it makes it a more vibrant atmosphere. You get the best of all worlds at night in downtown — the walkability, the restaurants and now the shops are open later as well.”
“We live in suburbia but yearn for that urban life,” according to Blumkin. “We have the environment for that downtown so we can capitalize on it by creating a lively atmosphere at night when people are not only available to shop but want to have a fun time doing it.”
Customers are looking forward to shopping later in a familiar setting close to home. “I’m so glad this is happening,” Peyton Callari said. The Encinitas resident said she is a regular downtown shopper on the weekends but doesn’t always have time to get to her favorite shops after work because they are closed.
“This is more convenient for shoppers; especially during the holidays,” she said. “There’s nothing worse than having to go to the mall and fight the traffic and find parking. It really zaps the joy out of the season.”
But now Callari and others can support local merchants when it is most convenient for them thanks to the coordinated effort behind L8 Nite Thursdays.