Mary Sue Renfro shops clothing at the Rochester Public Market’s Holiday at the Market Dec. 4. Mary Sue Renfro shops clothing at the Rochester Public Market’s Holiday at the Market Dec. 4.

Shoppers urged to check out local businesses

When looking to cross off items on their Christmas shopping lists this holiday season, shoppers could forgo malls and big-box stores and instead choose to support local businesses and artisans, area merchants and business associations suggested.

Commercial districts with shops and restaurants are scattered throughout Rochester, such as Park Avenue, Monroe Avenue and the South Wedge, said Rachel Laber from Visiting Rochester.

"There are many opportunities to shop local here in Rochester," said Laber, whose organization promotes tourism in Monroe County. "We have many great crafters and artists."

Off the beaten path are jewelry stores, small grocery stores, bakeries, auto parts retailers and restaurants in such areas North Clinton, Hudson and Joseph avenues in downtown Rochester. The neighborhoods all have business associations that serve their small business owners and raise funds to beautify the areas with banners and flowers, explained Albert Algarín, who heads up the North Clinton Business Association.

North Clinton is home to more than 75 businesses, he added. The association is hoping those merchants not only attract shoppers but also more businesses, Algarín added, as city officials continue planning for La Marketa, a mixed-use development on the 800 block of North Clinton Avenue.

"We’ll have to wait and see" how plans for La Marketa proceed in 2017, he said.

On Hudson Avenue, Lisa Santos said merchants like her see an uptick during the holidays. At her store, Lisa’s Fine Jewelry, she offers several specials to entice customers, including a raffle for a diamond ring.

"We encourage customers to support local small businesses," she told El Mensajero Católico in an e-mail. "In return we provide a personal experience to meet their needs and often create lasting, meaningful relationships."

Liz Sammons looks over items for sale at the Rochester Public Market’s Holiday at the Market Dec. 4.

Other areas of the city of Rochester and neighboring towns also host special events that provide local vendors with the opportunity to sell their products, Laber said. Events include "It’s a Wonderful Life" festivals in Seneca Falls and in the South Wedge, Christmas on the Canal in Spencerport, a Holiday Bazaar in Rochester’s Village Gate, the Park Avenue Open House and the Holidays at the Markets in the Rochester Public Market, she said.

"Local residents forget all the amazing things to see and do in Rochester," Laber remarked. "The holidays are a great time to support great organizations in Rochester that help enrich the quality of our lives and culture."

The Rochester Public Market was voted "America’s Favorite Market" in 2010, according to information at cityofrochester.gov and continues to be regarded as one of the best open-air markets, featuring many local growers and crafters, Laber noted. The Holidays at the Market event continues on Sundays until Christmas.

Recent changes at the market, such as the construction of a new shed, however, have posed challenges for vendors, said Juan Contreras, whose Juan & Maria’s Empanada Stop was closed temporarily for the first time in its 17 years. The shop reopened on Dec. 3 in a new kiosk adjacent to the market entrance on North Union Street.

Contreras said while he had anxiously prepared for the reopening, he is glad to finally be able to fulfill requests he often receives at Christmas time to ship empanada orders to other parts of the country. Prior to the move, he only prepared such shipments for military troops stationed overseas because of the work involved, he said.

Being a vendor at the market for so many years, Contreras said he also does his part to support his fellow vendors at the market by buying from them many of the ingredients he needs for his restaurant.

"We try to buy local as much as possible," he said. "Obviously in wintertime, that is challenge, but we try. I’m very well-aware that local is what keeps our economy going."

As a shopper herself, Laber said she has seen a renewed interest in supporting local businesses, including the gift shops at area museums. And Rochester is unique in being home to many artists, she said.

"There are many creative small businesses in our community that deserve our attention," noted Vilma Burgos-Torres, president of the Rochester Hispanic Business Association. "We should consider them first when looking to shop for all occasions, but especially during this holiday season."

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