This year’s late night candlelight shopping is organized by Karen Petelik, who four years ago opened her Vintage-ology shop a block north of Glover Park at 91 Church St.
Petelik said everyone is in high spirits and full of cheer during the open house.
“It is a wonderful party,” Petelik said. “It is a very glad, gay atmosphere.”
Petelik said the holiday season nearly doubles her business sales for nearly two months. One year during the open house, there were 100 people in Vintage-ology from one end of the shop to the other, Petelik said.
Petelik said this is the first year she is organizing the event, which she hopes will unite all the merchants downtown.
“I don’t want us all to feel we are in competition with each other,” Petelik said.
As part of the open house, the Marietta Wine Market, one block south of Glover Park at 18 Powder Springs St., will have a wine tasting with light hors d’oeuvres.
The Vineyard Café, a second-story tea house and lunch spot that overlooks Glover Park on the west side of the Square, will offer tasty bites to shoppers, as well as free gifts and raffles throughout the evening.
This year is about reaching out beyond Marietta to publicize the event, with a focus on getting east Cobb residents into the Square, Petelik said. This includes posting information about the open house on 13 digital billboards and social media.
“It really isn’t more difficult to get here than Roswell,” Petelik said, with the same amount of parking.
After the open house, merchants on the Square will extend their hours until 8 p.m. every Friday through Dec. 20.
The extended hours are great for people who work during the day, but can shop around the Square in the evening, Petelik said.
“They don’t have to fight the mall traffic,” Petelik said.
The Square brand
Mary Koronkowski, who is the manager of dk Gallery next to the Vineyard Café, started a month ago as the executive director of the Branding Project after volunteering for the organization for two years.
The Branding Project is made of 50 groups, including restaurant and retails owners, churches, and private individuals who want to increase business to the downtown area, defined as a three-block radius around Glover Park.
Koronkowski said the Branding Project is funded through grants from the Downtown Marietta Development Authority, as well as money raised from the Artists Market, which showcases 40 vendors on the second and fourth Saturdays from April through November.
Members of the Branding Project also pay a $100 membership per year, Koronkowski said.
Koronkowski said sales at the dk Gallery are already picking up.
“We certainly have higher traffic during the holiday season,” Koronkowski said. “It is a great time of year for us.”
Koronkowski said the atmosphere on the Square is “much more unique than going to the mall,” especially for one-of-a-kind art work and crafts. There is also the benefit of supporting local merchants.
Each year the open house allows people from the community to see their neighbors, Koronkowski said.
“(Marietta) is a town with a great tight-knit community of people that love to be with each other,” Koronkowski said.
Dianne Murphy owns and operates the Ye Olde Christmas and Candy Shoppe next door to Vintage-ology at 87 Church St. and will participate in Friday’s open house for the second year.
Murphy said the traffic into her store in 2012 increased by at least 50 percent, with shoppers selecting items under dim lights hanging from archways and twinkling from Christmas trees.
“Last year was a very successful evening,” Murphy said. “It is absolutely beautiful in here.”
Murphy’s husband, Bill, dresses as Santa and last year transitioned to an Elf costume once the “real” Santa arrives to Glover Park.
Murphy, who has lived in Marietta for 14 years and is a former preschool teacher, said her husband passes out free samples of fudge and candy around the Square during the holiday season to attract visitors to the Ye Olde Christmas and Candy Shoppe.
“The response (from shoppers) is wonderful once they step in those doors,” Murphy said.
A wonderland on the Square
Outside the Ye Olde Christmas and Candy Shoppe sits a chalkboard sign counting down the days until Christmas.
The windows are decorated with fake snow and evergreens, and holiday music quietly plays inside the store.
Past tables with snow globes and walls hung with large stockings are several tall, slender, dark green artificial Christmas trees.
Two trees have rustic, outdoor themes with red and black plaid bows, as well as ornaments of birds, bears, owls, acorns and antlers.
There is also a “beach tree” with bright green and aqua blue shells, mermaids, and flamingo ornaments.
“There are so many tastes out there,” Murphy said.
Murphy said she opened in April 2011 after realizing there was not a holiday store on the Square. Murphy said she has seen 40 percent growth this year with new customers stopping by the shop every day, many of them locals who are bringing visiting family and friends to the Square for a day of shopping.
Exclusive local items
Ye Olde Christmas and Candy Shoppe carries some exclusive locally designed items, like a Big Chick ornament only sold at Murphy’s store.
Murphy’s best sellers are hand-blown glass ornaments from the Old World Christmas collection, which includes Georgia peaches, magnolias flowers, churches, manager scenes, firemen Santas and commemorative items for a baby’s first Christmas.
New to the store this year is a snow village by Department 56 of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, including the iconic two-story white house lined with lights, as well as Cousin Eddie and his motorhome.
Year round the back half of the store has a Christmas theme, but the front section is changed after the holiday season to every day décor with a focus on sweet treats.
Ye Olde Christmas and Candy Shoppe sells imported Belgian chocolates and fudge. Murphy said for Christmas the flavors of fudge will change to red velvet cake and rum raisin.
There are also bins filled with old-fashioned candy designed to give a nostalgic feeling to shoppers. Items include saltwater taffy, rock candy, bubble gum cigarettes, Necco Wafers and Zotz, which have a fizzy, sour center.
If an item is not on the shelves, Murphy said she will research the treat and try to order a shipment for customers.
She also keeps a well-stocked collegiate section in the front of the store with gifts for sports fan.