Valentine’s Day helps shops ‘gain momentum’

Businesses collaborate to stay afloat

Valentine’s Day on High Street is being celebrated in much the same way as always, but with a few exceptions.

The specialty sweets shop, 5 Kidz Kandy, will be hosting its annual Valentine’s Day Open House, featuring a chocolate fountain, fruit bouquets and other sugary gifts. The event also functions as an opportunity for collaboration among other businesses in Waynesburg. In addition to candy, 5 Kidz Kandy will  be selling flowers from The Ivy Green, wine samples from Thistlethwaite Vineyards and cigars from Fischer Antiques.

“Valentine’s Day, for us, I guess is like other businesses’ Christmas,” said Kristy Vliet, owner of 5 Kidz Kandy.

The Valentine’s Day Open House has long acted as a catalyst of revenue for downtown shops. Vliet said the event offers a convenient way for shoppers to get all of their Valentine’s Day gifts in one place.

“It really helps all of us, and it helps the people who want to shop,” she said.

The Waynesburg Merchant’s Guild has long found ways for the businesses to cooperate, hosting the Valentine’s Day Open House and similar events on Fat Tuesday and Easter. But in the last year, several of the founding members—including Artbeat and Ruff Creek Crafts—have closed down permanently. Vliet said this can be discouraging for the shops that remain, trying to carry on.

“You know, it’s your friends,” she said. “Because you do work together and you do network, and then when somebody closes and leaves, it breaks your heart.”

Vliet said 5 Kidz Kandy will be contributing some candy items, including chocolate-covered strawberries for a giveaway at one of downtown’s newest operations, High Street Hair.

Jason Renner started High Street Hair in June 2018, after a different salon in the plaza closed. Renner opened the new business so all the stylists could continue working together. Since dedicating himself to a shop with a “hometown” feeling, Renner has labored on consistent collaborations with other High Street businesses–an initiative he calls Highlighting High Street.

“Though we had a good clientele following, we didn’t want to just stay that way,” Renner said. “You don’t want to just stay stagnant. You want to continue to grow, and that’s why these promotions and things we want to continue throughout the year try to help new people hearing about us.”

The giveaway with 5 Kidz Kandy is the first Highlighting High Street promotion, Renner said, and he was pleased with its success. After promoting the giveaway for one week, Renner said more than 150 people entered the drawing.

Vliet, who opened 5 Kidz Kandy in 2014, said her shop relies on events like these each year to bring in important revenue. This year, the Valentine’s Day Open House, specifically, is important.

“This has probably been our worst fiscal year, yet,” Vliet said. “It weighs heavy on you.”

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With many of the nearby shops closing and with her storefront eating up overhead costs, Vliet said she is debating closing the physical location and focusing all her efforts on catering services. Right now, that is “up in the air.”

“Four and a half years later, is it really even worth it to keep the storefront open, or just go with what’s working?” Vliet said. “It’s hard on all of us.”

For now, Vliet is hoping the Valentine’s Day Open House will help the store “gain momentum,” and she is hopeful, based on previous years’ sales. And despite Vliet’s thoughts of closing, both she and Renner said collaboration with other businesses is still at the forefront.

“There are so many small, hometown places that you can go to on High Street,” Renner said. “It doesn’t all have to be something so commercialized, and I do hope that running some of these promotions and bringing in another business to do that with really helps to just promote each of us.”