Downtown Amherst sets the table for holiday shoppers

It’s that time of year when many people start to panic. What to get everyone? Where should they shop? Online? Boring. The malls? Crowded and noisy. How about a different shopping experience this year?

I think you’ll be able to find it in downtown Amherst! What do you need? Perhaps it’s a bicycle or an old-fashioned record album. Or maybe it’s a unique piece of furniture or jewelry. Could it be gorgeous clothing or shoes? Or artwork from a gallery or hand-made crafts? Possibly it’s that perfect something that someone you love has been needing or wanting forever but that you never knew existed until you saw it in that downtown shop.

These and many other wild, wonderful and wacky gifts can be found this holiday season in downtown Amherst. There are over 20 retail establishments in the town center. Many are easily found on Main and North Pleasant streets but others are tucked away in alleys or on second floors. Come explore downtown Amherst and find them all.

What’s the key to being the consumer during the holiday season? To find the right place to shop, of course. And the right kinds of shops. The right kind of people running the shops. The helpful and cheerful kind. You can find those shops and those people in downtown Amherst. You’ve known them all your life. And if you don’t you can meet them because they’re right there in their stores to greet and help you. A century ago, the main streets of Amherst were lined with all kinds of shops and businesses. You could purchase utilitarian items such as carpets, paper products and groceries as well as unique and fun gifts.

Amazingly, you still can. Coming to town was an event back then. It required planning and forethought and was often a highly anticipated outing for children. That still holds true in the character and feel of downtown Amherst and never more so than now during the holiday season.

What’s also important to understand about shopping in Amherst center is that it is so much more than just buying things. It can be a grand adventure. A chance to celebrate the experience and pleasure of an entire outing. For example, shopping takes energy. You need libations and treats along the way for the stamina it takes to think through each transaction.

In downtown Amherst there are several bakeries, donut shops, ice cream and frozen yogurt establishments that can revitalize the shopping soul. If you’ve brought along family and friends they might require a side trip to one of our museums or the library or a stroll through hidden gardens or across a college campus or two. You might then require additional sustenance to finish the mission. You might ultimately need to have a meal with adult beverages involved to reward a job well done.

We’ve already decorated for you. Lights are up and downtown shopkeepers have stocked up for the holidays. Just to make it convenient, a whole bunch of shops will be open late on Thursday and Friday evenings throughout the holiday season. Check out the decorated windows, sing along to holiday music and take the trolley when your weary legs (or rowdy children) would like a break. The season of commerce has started in downtown Amherst and it is a beautiful, friendly and vibrant place to be.

So, come on “down” to downtown Amherst to do your holiday shopping. And if you end up with some great war stories or fun photos of your adventures please share them with us on the BID Facebook page. We look forward to seeing folks riding the trolley, filling their shopping bags and enjoying all that downtown Amherst has to offer.

Happy holidays from the BID!

Sarah la Cour is executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. Her column appears on the second Friday every other month.